Gum disease affects a smile, study shows

Bad gums impacts on a person’s smile, according to a recent US study.

Conducted at the University of Michigan, it assessed the smiling patterns of 21 periodontal patients who were viewing a clip of a comedy show.

The results are published in the Journal of Periodontology (JOP), the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

Researchers found evidence that periodontal disease may negatively affect an individual’s smiling patterns and deter someone from displaying positive emotions through a smile.

At predetermined measurement points throughout the clip of the TV show, the researchers assessed three dimensions of the patients’ smile – the horizontal width of the mouth, the open width of the mouth, and the number of teeth shown.

In addition, the researchers also noted the number of times the patient covered his or her mouth while watching the segment.

Individual perceptions of how the patient’s quality of life is affected by oral health were also considered.

The data were then evaluated along with a clinical exam of the patient’s periodontal health.

‘Since periodontal disease is prevalent in such a large number of adults, we sought to investigate if the disease affects a person’s smiling behaviour,’ said study author Dr Marita R Inglehart.

‘Smiling plays a significant and essential role in overall wellbeing. Previous findings suggest that smiling can affect social interactions, self-confidence and can influence how people perceive one another.’

The study findings indicated that periodontal disease can certainly impact how a person smiles.

The more symptoms of gum disease found in a patient’s mouth, such as periodontal pockets between 4-6mm deep or loose, moving teeth, the more likely the patient was to cover his or her mouth when smiling or to limit how widely the mouth opened during the smile.

In addition, the more gum recession seen in the patient, the fewer teeth he or she showed when smiling.

The way patients perceived their quality of life as a result of their oral health was also significantly correlated with the number of teeth affected by periodontal disease.

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