Study suggests having gum disease increases risk of developing mental illness
06/02/2022 // Zoey Sky // Views

Mental health may be the last thing you think of while brushing your teeth, but according to a study published in the journal BMJ Open, poor oral health may be linked to mental illness.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom recently discovered a crucial link between gum disease and the risk of other health concerns like mental illness and heart problems.

For the study, the research team wanted to find the link between periodontal diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, and chronic diseases like autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, cardiometabolic disease and mental illness.

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. It involves gum inflammation, but it doesn't always cause symptoms. You may even have gingivitis without realizing it.

Meanwhile, periodontitis is an advanced gum disease that involves infection and inflammation of the gums, along with the tooth-supporting bones of your jaw. It may eventually cause damage to your gums and result in tooth loss.

Poor oral health and chronic disease

For the study, researchers analyzed the medical records of 64,379 patients with either gingivitis or periodontitis. They also compared the patients to a cohort of 251,161 people without documented diagnoses of gum disease.

The research team discovered the following associations:

  • Those with gum disease were 37 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression over an average of three years compared to individuals without gum disease.
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  • The risk of autoimmune disease for people with gum disease went up by 33 percent.
  • The risk of developing cardiovascular disease went up by 18 percent.
  • The risk of Type 2 diabetes increased by 26 percent.

The researchers considered several possible causes for the link between poor oral health and chronic disease. With heart disease, it was possible that patients with periodontitis have "elevated circulating levels of pro-inflammatory mediators implicated in atherosclerosis" and transient bacteremia or bacterial infection in the blood that could be harmful.

Similar mechanisms could also explain the dangerous connection between gum disease and other health issues. For example, individuals who are careless about their oral health are less likely to maintain other healthy lifestyle habits that could help prevent concerns like diabetes and heart failure. (Related: CDC warns against too much fluoride in kids’ toothpaste, but says nothing about the issue of fluoridated water.)

Watch out for warning signs of gingivitis

Oral health is important because advanced gum disease may be linked to future chronic ailments like dementia, depression and stroke. To prevent periodontitis, you should maintain proper oral health. You should also keep an eye out for the warning signs of gingivitis, which can eventually develop into periodontitis.

Here are some of the warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis. Fortunately, they can be reversed with proper oral care and consistent dental hygiene:

  1. Bad breath
  2. Gums that bleed easily, especially when you're trying to floss or brush your teeth
  3. Swollen or puffy gums
  4. Red or dark red gums
  5. Tender gums
  6. Receding gums

Follow a balanced diet and brush and floss your teeth every day to treat gingivitis symptoms and prevent the more advanced stages of gum disease.

Once you develop advanced gum disease and the soft tissue and bones supporting your teeth become infected, you may experience these advanced signs and symptoms:

  1. Loose teeth or lost teeth
  2. Painful chewing
  3. New spaces developing between your teeth
  4. A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  5. Pus between the teeth and gums

During this advanced stage, the focus of care switches from prevention to managing symptoms and slowing disease progression.

Before things get worse, start improving your oral health habits to prevent gum disease and other health issues like mental illness and heart problems.

Watch the video below to know more about how your oral health affects your overall well-being.

This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

More related stories:

Heart health and mouth health linked: Treating gum disease found to help lower blood pressure.

Chaparral herb found to prevent oral diseases caused by oxidative stress.

3 DIY toothpaste recipes for optimal oral health and hygiene.

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