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Mental health: the unexpected danger of gum disease

WGEM News at Five
Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM) --- About 47 percent of adults 30 and older have gum disease. That number jumps to 70 percent for those 65 and older. Gum disease causes red, swollen and bleeding gums, and in late stages, may cause teeth to loosen and fall out. Now, a new study shows that your gums may not be the only thing affected by this condition. Ivanhoe has details on how your mental health could be impacted, too.

Brushing twice a day, flossing every day, limiting sugary treats; these are all elements for good dental care. But orthodontist Lawrence Hier, DDS, MS, told Ivanhoe, “Patients would constantly come in with poor oral hygiene.”

In a survey, it was found that 59 percent of respondents did not floss once a day and 31 percent of Americans failed to brush twice a day. Two percent admitted to not brushing at all. Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, but researchers from the U.K. have also found it was linked to mental health issues. The researchers looked at medical files for nearly 65,000 people with gum disease. They found 37 percent also had mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

“When we’re stressed, our homeostatic relationships in our bodies are not working as well, therefore we get an overgrowth of bacteria, dry mouth,” explained periodontist David Genet, DMD.

Cognitive decline has also been linked to gum disease. A study in Boston linked periodontal disease with an increased buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain. Bottom line? Good oral hygiene doesn’t only just take care of your mouth but may take care of your mind as well.

A pathogen linked to bacteria commonly found in chronic gum disease patients was associated with increased production of beta-amyloid in the brain. Now researchers are looking into treatments aimed at that pathogen that may reduce cognitive decline in some Alzheimer’s patients.

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