I have discussed oral health before and have mentioned Dr. Weston Price’s research about nutrition. Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948) was a Cleveland dentist who traveled around the world to visit indigenous tribes to study their oral health. In the 1930s, Dr. Price discovered that tooth decay is but one symptom in an overall debilitation of human health brought on by the consumption of processed foods. Consuming processed foods lead to a degeneration that includes diminished resistance to bacterial infection, onset of any number of degenerative diseases, and the alarming introduction of birth defects and mental illness in offspring of people who eat “modern” foods.
Even though there are many studies published about the relationship between oral health, nutrition and degenerative disease, only a handful dentists talk about it at their practice. Here is a new study published last December in British Medical Journal that poor dental health can lead to deterioration in mental health.
The researchers from the University of Birmingham examined the medical records of 64,379 patients who had a history of periodontal disease, including gingivitis (mild gum disease) and periodontitis (advanced gum disease involving infection and inflammation of the gums as well as tooth-supporting bones of the jaw). These patients’ records were compared to those of 251,161 patients who had no record of periodontal disease.
The results show that people with periodontal disease at the start of the study had a 37% higher risk of developing mental health problems over the next three years. The study authors note that these problems include higher rates of depression, anxiety, and serious mental illness.
Moreover, not only mental health, but also the study showed that the risk of autoimmune disease for people with gum disease was elevated by 33%, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increased by 18%, and the risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 26%.
“An important implication of our findings is the need for efficient communication between dentists and other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients get an effective treatment plan aimed at both oral health and health in general to reduce the risk of future diseases “, concludes Krish Nirantharakumar, co-lead author.
I strongly agree with Nirantharakumar, but this is also the reason we all need a holistic approach to treat health conditions. This might be one of the largest epidemiological studies of its kind, but I think the findings were first published almost 100 years ago as Dr. Price concluded. “Modern diet”, or so called SAD (Standard American Diet) contributes to degenerative disease as many of you know, so this University of Birmingham study was not about a new discovery, but proof that “you are what you eat”.