April 19, 2009

Stress, Depression and Gum Disease

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We’ve written about this before, but in these troubling times I think it’s a message that bears repeating. Stress and depression can take a toll on your mouth.  A study reported in February made that link clear through their examination of 45 people who had gum disease and who the researchers tested for stress and depression.

Study participants were asked about depression and long-term stress. They were also tested for the hormone cortisol, which the body increases its production of during stressful times.

What these researchers found was that people who said they were depressed were more likely to have missing teeth.   And those participants who had high levels of cortisol in their system often had both missing teeth and deeper pockets between their teeth and gums where bacteria can take up residence and start partying in your mouth, leaving you with sore, inflamed gums and less than stable teeth.

We know that people who are depressed often don’t take as good care of their teeth as they should and we know that gum disease is typical in older people and in people who aren’t diligent about dental care.   However, even when the researchers adjusted for these factors, they still found links between depression, stress and gum disease.

We’ve talked a many times about the links between gum disease and diabetes. In my July 19, 2008 blog I also talked about the links that have been found between type 2 diabetes and depression.

We know there are two-way links between diabetes and gum disease – that diabetes increases your risk of gum disease and that gum disease can trigger your body’s inflammation response and worsen your diabetes. We also know there’s a bidirectional relationship between type 2 diabetes and depression.    Now we also know there’s a link between depression and gum disease.

If you have diabetes, gum disease or have been stressed or depressed, it’s time to be good to yourself and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy.   That may include seeking out a dentist who understands the links between diabetes, gum disease, stress and depression.   Follow this link to find a Dentistry for DiabeticsSM dentist in your area.

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