While many people may wonder if there is a relationship between oral health and mental health, it’s hard to ignore the link when you consider the research that has been done in this area. Data shows that almost two-thirds of people with depression reported having a toothache in the last year. It also indicates that half of all people with depression consider the condition of their teeth to be fair or poor. There is scientific evidence to support a strong link between gum disease and mood conditions like stress, distress, anxiety and depression.
So how are mental health and oral health related?
Like all other areas of the body, your oral health and mental health are interconnected. Poor oral health can cause social anxiety, body image issues and self-esteem issues to increase. When you suffer from mental health challenges, you may fall out of proper oral care routines or develop dental anxiety that keeps you from receiving the important dental care that you need to maintain a healthy mouth.
Many people who suffer from stress, depression and anxiety will often lose focus on oral care habits, which can lead to significant dental issues. Depression, for example, can cause people to skip their brushing and flossing routines, miss dental visits, have an unhealthy diet and self-medicate with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
Depression and anxiety can also affect several factors inside your body that can deteriorate oral health. Stress manifests itself in the body as cortisol and increased cortisol levels make the immune system get weaker. This can leave you vulnerable to mouth conditions like gum inflammation and gum disease. Also, medications prescribed for depression and anxiety can cause dry mouth. A lack of saliva often leads to food debris, plaque and bacteria build-up which can make it easier for cavities to form.
Anxiety, in particular, tends to be associated with several oral health issues. If you have anxiety, you’re more susceptible to canker sores, dry mouth and teeth grinding. As with depression, these issues may be attributed to a lack of oral care or as a side effect of anxiety medication.
The good news is that by focusing on small steps to maintain your oral care routine at home you can take charge of keeping your mouth healthy. If you are prescribed any medications for anxiety or depression, be sure to discuss their side effects with your doctor or pharmacist. Let your dentist know as well so they can provide suggestions and treatments that can help. You can also discuss dental anxieties with your dentist to find solutions that work for you so you can get access to the dental care you need.
Your dentist is there to support you in caring for your mouth and can be an important ally to keep your mental health and oral health working in harmony. Let us know at your next appointment if there is anything the team at Ambiance Dental can do to better support you!