Bad teeth and poor dental health have been linked to many different health problems. From heart disease to diabetes, it has been shown that your oral health has a direct link to your physical health. But what about your mental health?
In addition to health concerns, studies have shown that there is a link between depression and oral health, with many depression sufferers also struggling with oral health issues. While depression can make you less willing to floss your teeth, what exactly is the link between mental and oral health?
Data collected from the National Health and Nutritional Survey in 2017 showed that nearly half of all surveyed people with depression stated that their dental health was fair or poor. Also, it indicated that two-thirds of people who struggle with depression have had a toothache within the last year.
Looking at the facts, the easiest assumption to make is that people who are already dealing with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety are less likely to pay attention to their oral health. Some conditions can make self-care, such as brushing and flossing, difficult to manage. Other forms of depression can make it hard to get out of the house to get to routine dental appointments. Anxiety can also lead to teeth grinding, known as bruxism, which will also cause damage to your teeth.
The assumption that people with depression are not taking care of their teeth might be a simple one to make, but it is also not the whole truth. On a biological level, depression and anxiety can cause an increase in the amount of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone.
As the amount of cortisol increases in your body, your immune system becomes compromised, making you more susceptible to illness or infection. This includes your mouth. The growth of bacteria within your gums can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can cause tooth loss as well as other physical health concerns.
In addition to the biological factor when it comes to mental and oral health, there is also the risk of medication side effects. Many medications that are used to treat depression or anxiety can also cause a decrease in the amount of saliva you have in your mouth, known as dry mouth.
Saliva is a natural cleanser, removing food debris and bacteria. Without saliva, you are more likely to get cavities or experience other dental issues.
What to do
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, your oral health does not have to be compromised. Have an open discussion with your dentist about your concerns. You should also keep up with your routine hygiene appointments, especially if you are prone to dry mouth, to keep dental issues at bay.
With a healthy smile, you will naturally feel less discomfort, pain, or shyness when it comes to showing your teeth. You do not have to suffer. Take care of your teeth now for long-term oral health.