Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States. According to a recent report from the CDC, nearly 47 percent of American adults thirty and over have mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis. When considering that gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can cause loss of teeth, and increase your chances of heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer, these numbers are worrisome. New research may also suggest a link between another disorder on the rise: depression. Especially among young adults and teens, depression rates increased significantly in the last five years, rising by almost 7.3 percent.
Is there a relationship between mental health and gum disease?
How Does Depression Affect Oral Health?
Published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, researchers at the Oral Health Foundation wanted to better understand the relationship between mental health and oral health. Monitoring more than 500 people from birth until the age of 30, the research found that those suffering from feelings of sadness, helplessness, and other symptoms of depression, are almost 20% more likely to have severe gum disease. According to researchers, these findings go far in demonstrating how oral health can be both physical and mental. It can also open new avenues for helping patients to treat gum disease or avoid it altogether.
What’s the Cause?
Although the data clearly suggests a link between gum disease and oral health, the cause is more challenging to suss out. One of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease is a consistent oral health routine which includes daily brushing and flossing, partnered with regular dental check ups. Those with depression know that it can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, and often hygiene can suffer as a result. Dental phobia can also be a factor, as it’s linked to those with anxiety. Many who experience moderate or severe anxiety at the dentist may avoid going for years, which can put your oral health in jeopardy. Those with dental phobia should speak with their dentist about sedation dentistry, or drug-free relaxation dentistry, such as NuCalm.
Protect Your Oral Health
What this study shows is that those with depression or anxiety should take extra precaution to protect their oral health. The American Dental Association suggests brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. This will remove plaque before it can harden into tarter, protecting your teeth from decay and your gums from infection. Visiting the dentist every six months is also an important step to protecting your mouth, as it ensures any complications can be treated before they worsen.