BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — Poor dental health may also lead to poor mental health, a new study reveals. Researchers from the University of Birmingham say developing gum disease and tooth issues can also increase a person’s risk of suffering from depression and anxiety over the next few years.
Along with mental health problems, study authors found that a history of gum disease can significantly raise a person’s chances of developing autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and even metabolic disorders like diabetes.
“Poor oral health is extremely common, both here in the UK and globally. When oral ill-health progresses, it can lead to a substantially reduced quality of life. However, until now, not much has been known about the association of poor oral health and many chronic diseases, particularly mental ill-health,” says co-first author Dr. Joht Singh Chandan in a university release.
Researchers examined the medical history of more than 64,000 people with a history of periodontal disease during the study. This includes gingivitis and periodontitis — a serious gum infection that leads to bleeding gums and can destroy the jawbone without immediate treatment. Overall, 60,995 participants had gingivitis and 3,384 had periodontitis.
The team compared these individuals to a quarter-million healthy patients with no record of gum disease, while also accounting for factors such as body mass index, smoking habits, and ethnicity.
Results show those with periodontal disease at the start of the study had a 37-percent higher risk of developing mental health problems over the next three years. Study authors note these issues include higher rates of depression, anxiety, and “serious mental illness.”
Dental health linked to physical disease as well
In addition to anxiety and depression, the study finds a 33-percent increase in the risk of developing autoimmune diseases like arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis among people with dental problems.
Previous studies have found a link between high blood pressure and gum disease. Moreover, severe infections from periodontitis can create complications for the heart and lungs among people who fail to get treatment. With that in mind, the team discovered an 18-percent increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease among patients with gum disease. This puts them at higher risk for heart failure, stroke, and dementia. The odds of developing type 2 diabetes also increased by 26 percent.
“As periodontal diseases are very common, an increased risk of other chronic diseases may represent a substantial public health burden,” Dr. Chandan says.
“An important implication of our findings is the need for effective communication between dental and other healthcare professionals to ensure patients obtain an effective treatment plan targeting both oral and wider health to improve their existing overall health and reduce the risk of future illness,” adds co-senior author Professor Krish Nirantharakumar.
The findings are published in the journal BMJ Open.