By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Is yoga the key to dental health? It may not fight cavities, but the ancient great exercise regimen can improve a person’s oral health in a number of other important areas. Most of the oral health benefits of yoga come from stress relief. Eliminating stress has benefits for areas of health throughout the body, but it is particularly important when it comes to dental well-being.” – Irene McKinney
If you asked most people what’s one of the most common health problems that people have, probably the last thing that they would come up with us oral health. Yet, about half of all American adults, around 65 million, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to over 70 percent.
“Periodontitis means “inflammation around the tooth” – it is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports the tooth. All periodontal diseases, including periodontitis, are infections which affect the periodontium. The periodontium are the tissues around a tooth, tissues that support the tooth. With periodontitis, the alveolar bone around the teeth is slowly and progressively lost. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, stick to the surface of the tooth and multiply – an overactive immune system reacts with inflammation.” These bacterial plaques are sticky, colorless membranes that develop over the surface of the teeth and are the most common cause of periodontal disease. If it is not treated periodontitis will eventually lead to tooth loss, and increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems.
Treatment for periodontitis is straightforward including professional plaque removal and general at home oral hygiene. If severe, surgical procedures are called for. But, like many infections, periodontitis is exacerbated by stress. So, practices like mindfulness and yoga training, that reduce stress, may well help with periodontitis. In addition, mindfulness practices have been found to reduce the inflammatory response which would in turn reduce the inflammation of the gums. So, it would make sense to investigate the effects of yoga practice on periodontal disease.
In today’s Research News article “.” See:
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Katuri and colleagues compared patients diagnosed with chronic periodontitis who practiced yoga for at least 5 years, to patients who demonstrated anxiety and depression, and those who neither practiced yoga or were anxious or depressed. They found that the yoga practitioners had less severe periodontitis as indicated by a plaque index and attachment level. In addition, the yoga practitioners had significantly lower plasma cortisol levels, an indicator of stress. Hence, the yoga practitioners were found to have less severe periodontal disease and less stress.
This study, however, simply compared groups who practiced yoga and didn’t. There could be systematic differences between the groups other than yoga practice that could be responsible for the results. For example, yoga practitioners may generally have healthier lifestyles including better diets and more rigorous home oral hygiene practices. It remains for future research to actively assign groups of patients diagnosed with chronic periodontitis to practice yoga to observe the causal effects of yoga practice on the disease.
The results, however, make sense. Yoga practice by reducing the psychological and physical responses to stress can reduce inflammatory responses and improve periodontitis. These intriguing findings deserve to be followed-up with more rigorous studies to ascertain if you can improve oral health with yoga.
“Studies have shown that yoga practiced regularly can decrease blood pressure, reduce your heart rate, and lessen stress. That is important to your oral health because stress diminishes resistance to infections including gum disease and abscesses, and can make you more likely to develop canker sores and cold sores. So don’t be surprised at your next dental visit when our hygienist tells you to brush, floss and sign up for a yoga class!” – Jill Smith
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Katuri, K. K., Dasari, A. B., Kurapati, S., Vinnakota, N. R., Bollepalli, A. C., & Dhulipalla, R. (2016). Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 6(1), 7–14. http://doi.org/10.4103/2231-0762.175404
Reducing the psychosocial stress by various methods can improve overall health, and yoga is now considered as an easily available alternative method. The present cross-sectional pilot study was conducted mainly to find the association of yoga practice with periodontal disease by measuring serum cortisol levels.
Materials and Methods:
A total of 70 subjects with age range of 35–60 years suffering with chronic periodontitis were divided into group I (with stress), group II (without stress), and group III (practicing yoga). Psychological evaluation was carried out using Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (ZSDS). Periodontal parameters like plaque index (PI), probing pocket depth (PPD), and clinical attachment level (CAL) at 5–8 mm and >8 mm were recorded. Blood samples were collected and serum cortisol levels were measured.
Mean age, plaque scores, and number of teeth with PPD and CAL at 5–8 mm and >8 mm were similar in all the groups, except between group I and group III where a multiple comparison with Tukey’s post-hoc test showed significant difference in plaque index (P < 0.038) and the number of teeth with CAL 5–8 mm (P < 0.016). Serum cortisol levels and HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores showed highly significant value (P < 0.001) in group I subjects when compared with group II and group III subjects.
Cross-sectional observation done among three groups showed that individuals practicing yoga regularly had low serum cortisol levels, HAM-A scale and ZSDS scores, and better periodontal health.