Since oral health is an integral component of overall health and well-being, poor oral health may lead to poorer health as well as impair physical, psychological and social functioning of an individual.

The association between tooth loss, which is mainly caused by periodontal disease, and various health complications has been established through a number of studies. Chronic kidney disease, cancer and depression are among the problems that have been linked to tooth loss.

Below presented are the different findings from research studies regarding the subject.

Chronic kidney disease


One study revealed that patients with more severe chronic kidney disease (CKD) also have more severe periodontal disease than those with less severe CKD. The study findings from Mahidol University showed that poor periodontal health correlates with markers of malnutrition and inflammation in patients receiving maintenance haemodialysis.

The association between poor oral health with malnutrition in patients with CKD was also shown in another study that was published in 2013. The authors found that the more teeth lost, the worse the dietary intake of the participants.

This highlighted that teeth loss affects chewing ability and thus contributes adversely to the nutritional status in those patients. This finding is consistent with a 2001 study conducted by the University College London Medical School that linked dental health with nutrition.

Cancer


Studies have shown that compromised oral health may be a risk factor for carcinogenesis. Previous research has also demonstrated that individuals with periodontal disease have an increased level of inflammatory markers in their blood.

These markers are part of an early immune system which respond to persistent inflammation and have been associated with the development of pancreatic cancer. Another explanation to this condition was that the high levels of carcinogenic compounds present in the mouths of periodontal disease sufferers reacted with digestive chemicals in the gut, consequently creating favourable conditions for the development of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is not the only type of cancer that has been linked to tooth loss. A case-control study by a team of researchers from Japan revealed a positive association between tooth loss and an increased risk of head and neck, esophageal as well as lung cancer.

In the case of head and neck and esophageal cancers, researchers observed a more significant association between tooth loss and cancer risk in women and younger subjects compared to men and older subjects. The study, which involved over 5,000 cancer patients with 14 types of cancer diagnosed, suggested that maintaining tooth number, especially before older age, might prevent these cancers.

Psychological impacts


The impact of tooth loss extends beyond the risk of contracting physical health complications. Quality of life is another area that can be affected by this condition.

In a 2016 study, Sung-Eun Yang and three other researchers found that dental pain and tooth loss have a considerable impact of health-related quality of life in the Korean adult population. More specifically, results of the study showed that individuals missing eight to 28 teeth with dental pain exhibited the highest level of impaired quality of life.

Additionally, an article published in 2016 also shed light on the various findings and current knowledge about the causal relationship between periodontal disease and depression. Alexandrina L. Dumitrescu, who has expertise in dentistry, found that periodontal disease may contribute to the onset of depression through different pathways.

One of them was through excessive secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are known have a role in increased vulnerability to depression. Another pathway that periodontal disease increases the risk for depression is through psychosocial effects due to poor oral hygiene.

As periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, in addition to affecting patients’ chewing functionality, it also impairs their image as well as diminishes their self-esteem and social status. Further in-depth research is needed to explore possible preventive efforts and therapeutic strategies to promote oral health, thus decreasing the risks of other health problems associated with periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Seeing the bigger picture will enable healthcare professionals to provide guidance to patients, take preventative measures and treat problems at an early stage in order to encourage patients to maintain optimal health and a satisfying quality of life. MIMS

Read more:
In conversation: Prosthodontist Dr Jeffrey Sng on the need for good oral health among the elderly
Australian scientists develop first vaccine for gum disease
Dentist charged for extracting patient’s tooth while atop a hoverboard

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614421/
http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/7/e011836.full
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4469954/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11332523
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3917197/
http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/17/5/1222
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008590/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4804721/