Heart disease: Study identifies ‘extremely common’ condition as a risk factor

Gum disease: Dentist explains how you can prevent it

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A new risk factor has been identified that increases risk of heart disease, mental health problems and diabetes. A University of Birmingham study found that gum disease correlated to a 37 percent increase in mental health problems, 33 percent increased risk of developing autoimmune disorders and 18 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The risks of metabolic disorders varied, with a rate of seven percent that spiked to 26 percent when looking only at type 2 diabetes.

 Co-first author Dr Joht Singh Chadan said:  “Poor oral health is extremely common, both here in the UK and globally. 

“When oral ill-health progresses, it can lead to a substantially reduced quality of life. 

“However, until now, not much has been known about the association of poor oral health and many chronic diseases, particularly mental ill-health.

“We found evidence that periodontal disease appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing these associated chronic diseases.

“As periodontal diseases are very common, an increased risk of other chronic diseases may represent a substantial public health burden.”

The research could provide insight into prevention measures that can lower the risk of developing these diseases.

Co-Senior Author Professor Krish Nirantharakumar said: “An important implication of our findings is the need for effective communication between dental and other healthcare professionals.”

Gum disease can vary in severity, from mild inflation and irritation (gingivitis) to damaging the jawbone and surrounding tissues (periodontitis).

Gum disease is often caused by bacteria, building up in plaques, with good oral hygiene lowering the risk.

The relationship identified in the study does not make any causal relationship between gum disease and other conditions.

Symptoms of gum disease such as tooth loss and bad breath can negatively impact social life and self esteem, which could explain the link to poor mental health.

At the same time, poor mental health might also lead people to neglect health measures such as tooth brushing.

It is also possible that other identified factors could influence them collectively.

The study was observational, raising the possibility that people with recorded information on gum disease were more likely to have been examined for a variety of diseases compared to the other group that might have undiagnosed conditions.

The researchers warn against overstating the importance of the findings.

Dr Chandan told fact checking organisation Full Fact: “There will be lots of other factors we haven’t accounted for.”

The study used a large dataset containing 300,000 people.

64,379 patients were identified whose GP had recorded gum disease, alongside a control group of 251,161 patients.

Patients were matched to minimise the effect of variables such as age and sex.

The research data was collected over a more than 20-year period, between January 1st 1995 and 2019.

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