Healthy Mouth, Healthy Mind
By Deborah Lyle, RDH, BS, MS
September 29, 2010
The American Dental Association notes that the mouth is filled with countless bacteria, some linked to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Researchers have found that periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease that can cause tooth loss) is linked with other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that contributes to the body's bacterial burden.
It is amazing how much information continues to be published about the connection between periodontal disease and other diseases. It can also affect your mental health. For example, a recent USA Today Weekend article noted that the health of your teeth and gums can help predict dementia. The article was referring to a study conducted at the University of Southern California in collaboration with Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The study researched twins to determine why one twin had dementia, most often Alzheimer's disease, and the other did not. Three significant differences were identified. The twin with dementia was:
- 6 times more likely to have had a stroke
- 4 times more likely to have periodontal disease by mid life
- 3 times more likely to report less education
Studies and clinical research will likely continue to find links between oral health and healthy minds and bodies. Dental health professionals need to continue to stress the common goal of reducing inflammation, including gingivitis and periodontitis.