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The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Depression

April 2, 2014

We are hearing more and more of the correlation between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease that is well documented in the literature of medicine and dentistry.What has recently come to light is the correlation between periodontal health (gum disease and infection) and mental health.

It becomes a question much like which came first, ‘the chicken or the egg?’ Depression can lead to periodontal health problems. And periodontal health problems can lead to depression.

Can depression lead to periodontal health problems?

Yes! Mental health is also negatively affected by periodontal disease and the associated inflammation and its cellular byproducts. From a dental standpoint, we can easily see how those persons suffering with depression are less inclined to take appropriate care of their physical needs, especially dental health and hygiene needs. The ensuing periodontal disease from oversight or neglect of dental hygiene makes perfect sense.

But a recent report links the effects of inflammation (always present with periodontal and gingival disease) in the body as a cause and contributor of depression.

Periodontal health problems can lead to depression

From a scientific, albeit technical viewpoint, the inflammatory response resulting from periodontal disease appears to be mediated by macrophages, which produce various cytokines, although periodontal tissues may also directly produce cytokines, such as IL-6 and IL-8. As such, periodontal disease may be a marker of a failure of the immune system to resolve inflammation a state that may also result in vulnerability to depression.

Of course, we can also trace it from a psychosocial standpoint. Those with gum disease problems usually have trouble eating and lack aesthetics because of misaligned, decaying or missing teeth. They may feel ashamed of their appearance and would prefer to be alone (isolation) that can lead to loneliness, a predisposition that might lead to depression.

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Mindset

Avoid depression tendencies by reducing periodontal disease and inflammation. In a holistic point of view, good oral health generally leads to better overall health for a person. The bottom line: inflammation is a sign of developing disease or a full-blown infection. Reduction of inflammation, regardless of system in the body: arthritis, cellulitis, or the more easily treated periodontitis and gingivitis; is linked to lessening of depression and mood swings.