14 December 2018

Young adults with feelings of depression are significantly more at risk of oral health diseases, according to the findings of a new study.

The research shows those suffering from sadness, helplessness and other symptoms of depression, are almost 20% more likely to also have severe gum disease.1

Published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, scientists monitored the oral and mental health of more than 500 people from birth until the age of 30.

The study makes a connection between depression and the body’s ability to fight off inflammation – a sign of gum disease. It also suggests that young people with symptoms of depression are more likely to neglect their oral health.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, believes the study highlights how good oral health can be as much about the mind as it is about the mouth.

Dr Carter says: “Gum disease and feelings of depression are two common conditions that most of us might suffer from at some point in our lives.  Following this study, we now know these problems are linked and often occur together.

“Understanding that mental disorders can influence the health of our mouth is extremely important. It gives us a platform to be able to increase the standard of oral health in the UK and beyond.

“More effective education, individual treatment plans, better supportive therapy and aftercare, must be provided for those suffering with depression and other mental health disorders.

“For these things to happen, we must first improve our ability to spot depression, which often goes undiagnosed.”

Around one in five (20%) people in the United Kingdom have symptoms of anxiety or depression.

According to the Oral Health Foundation, those with mental disorders are often faced with more challenges to maintain a healthy mouth.

The charity is keen to offer support to those struggling with their oral health, as well as for parents and carers.

“Everybody deserves the right of good oral health. Sadly, for those with depression, there are many reasons why this may negatively impact their oral health,” adds Dr Carter.

Dental phobia for example, is often linked to those with anxiety. It means dental visits become less regular and the chance to spot and treat diseases early becomes increasingly difficult.

“Depression can also lead to eating disorders which can affect the health of the teeth. Consistent and effective brushing actions also become harder while being on medication for depression may also have a negative effect on the mouth and its ability to produce saliva.


1. Nascimento, G. G. et al (2018) ‘Is there an association between depression and periodontitis? A birth cohort study’. J Clin Periodontol. Accepted Author Manuscript. . doi:10.1111/jcpe.13039