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Depression Is Linked to Poor Oral Health, According to Researchers

26 May 2014
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Photo by: Herry Lawford (file image), license
Regular visits to a dentist is just as important as brushing teeth regularly.

According to researchers from Deakin University, there is a connection between poor oral health and depression.

This conclusion is based on data collected from over 10,000 respondents, aged 20 to 75 years old, who took part of a comprehensive health survey. The Deakin IMPACT Strategic Research Centre found that poor oral health, which is measured by the dental issues a person has, increases the risk of developing depression.

Dr. Adrienne O’Neil of Deakin said, “Not only did we find a connection between dental health and depression, we also demonstrated that a dose-response exists between the two conditions, meaning that the more dental conditions one had the greater the severity of their depression.”

“This relationship held true even after accounting for other factors that could potentially explain the association, such as high body mass index and CRP, a protein that is often used as a general marker of inflammation in the body,” the doctor added.

From a medical stand point, depression is considered to be an inflammatory disorder. This means that causes of inflammation, such as poor diet, being overweight or a different medical condition, can affect biological processes, which can then induce depression or other types of mental disorders at an early age. However, no extensive investigation has been done on poor dental health, which is one of the causes of inflammation, and its connection with mental depression. Therefore, researchers analysed data given by respondents of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine the possibility of a connection between the two.

Researchers found that 61 per cent of the respondents who have reported being depressed have also reported experiencing aches in their mouths in the past year. Moreover, more than half of the participants, or 57.4 per cent, considered their dental health to be in fair or poor condition.

Despite the researchers having been able to demonstrate a link between depression and poor oral health, they were not able to determine the reasons.

Dr. O’Neil said, “The relationship between dental health and depression is not well understood, with previous studies investigating poor dental health as a by-product of depression, rather than a precursor.”

She further stated, “Although the results of this study provide only a snapshot of this association, they add to emerging theories around the importance of oral health and bacteria in mental health.

“This is an exciting area of research Deakin is exploring further with longitudinal data collected here in Australia. Specifically, we are currently conducting a study of how microbiota and the bacteria in the mouth, as well as the gut, may be related to inflammatory disease, including depression.

“If poor dental health is a risk factor for depression, this may have implications for depression management, as well as depression prevention from a public health perspective,” Dr. O’Neil concluded.