Angry, Lonely Men Prone to Gum Disease

Expressing Feelings, Having Friends Helps Oral Health

From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 22, 2003 -- If you're angry, this may make you mad. And if you're lonely, it may make you want to shun others. Here's the news: Anger and social isolation are linked to gum disease -- particularly in men.

The findings come from a survey of more than 42,500 health professionals. Nearly 60% are dentists, about 20% are veterinarians, and the rest are pharmacists, optometrists, osteopathic physicians, and podiatrists. They all are taking part in the ongoing Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

None of the men had gum disease when they started the study. But within the next four years, 1,100 of them said they'd had at least one bout of gum disease. Officially called periodontitis, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It's a major cause of adult tooth loss.

Men who said they got angry on a daily basis were 43% more likely to have gum disease. The men who scored highest on anger scores were 72% more likely to get gum disease than those men who scored lowest on anger scores.

Men who reported having at least one close friend were 30% less likely to have gum disease than their friendless colleagues. Participation in regular religious services cut gum-disease risk by 27%.

Researchers Anwar T. Merchant, DMD, ScD, and colleagues at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, conclude that having more social support -- and learning to express one's feelings of anger -- would be good for your gums.

The findings appear in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Signs of Gum Disease

It's not always obvious when you have gum disease. Catching it early, though, could mean the difference between keeping and losing your teeth.

Beware if you have any of these signs of gum disease:

  • Your gums bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Your gums are red, swollen, or tender
  • Your gums have pulled away from your teeth
  • You have bad breath that doesn't go away
  • You have pus between your teeth and gums
  • You have loose teeth
  • There's been a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • You've had a change in the way your partial dentures fit

If so, health experts advise seeing a dentist as soon as you can.

WebMD Health News


SOURCES: Merchant, A.T. Journal of the American Dental Association, December 2003; vol 134: pp 1591-1596. News release, American Dental Association.
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