Studies prove that our oral health is tightly connected to our overall health. Researchers know there’s a strong link between periodontal (gum) disease and our mood. Conditions like stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness are linked with poorer oral health. The connections between our mental health and mouth ulcers, specifically, haven’t been explored thoroughly. That is, until a team of international researchers gathered genes from thousands of individuals around the world experiencing this oral condition. Their research has opened the door for further investigation into what causes mouth ulcers and why mouth ulcers develop on a genetic level.
What Causes Mouth Ulcers?
Mouth ulcers, sometimes referred to as canker sores, are referred to in the medical community as “aphthous ulcers.” Poor fitting mouth appliances like dentures or braces can cause this. Mouth ulcers can also arise from irritation from a broken tooth or filling. These types of mouth ulcers will usually resolve themselves on their own within one or two weeks. If you’ve had a mouth ulcer for longer than two weeks, contact a dentist in your area to set up an appointment. It’s likely something else may be causing it.
Historically, researchers thought mouth ulcers were mostly hereditary, being passed from parent to child. But, a new study points to a different cause for mouth ulcers. “The researchers found a significant correlation between experiencing mouth ulcers and depressive symptoms.” Our mental health could be having a significant impact on the formation of mouth ulcers and our oral health.
New Research Connects Mental Health and Oral Health, Mouth Ulcers
A team of international researchers gathered genes from thousands of individuals around the world. Their genes and other environmental factors were examined to see how they contributed to mouth ulcers. This study connected “seemingly unrelated physical and psychological conditions”: depression and mouth ulcers. In addition to having self-reported depression in common, the study participants also had a number of genes overlapping.
Researchers identified an astounding 97 common genes shared between individuals who experience mouth ulcers. Most of these genes had to do with the body’s immune system function. This suggests that the individuals developing mouth ulcers have similar genetic makeup that could be influencing their oral health. Specifically, it could cause them to develop mouth ulcers. This new pool of genetic data allows researchers to further investigate what influences this oral condition and how it can be treated.
This study is significant because it changes the perception that mouth ulcers are primarily an inherited trait. It also furthers the concept that our overall health strongly influences the health of our mouths, and vice versa. We think it’s safe to say that caring for our mental well-being is also another form of oral health care.
Learn more about the oral and overall health connection: