Links Between Oral Health and Mental Health

mental health and oral health dr alana macalik

People who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders are at a higher risk of developing oral health problems. Emotional well-being has a major impact on overall wellness as well as teeth and gums. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, after a year of a stressful pandemic, now is a good time to take stock of your dental care and how it has been impacted by your mental health.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When you are feeling severely depressed or anxious, taking good care of yourself may cease to be a priority. One of the biggest areas to suffer is oral hygiene. Instead of brushing and flossing twice a day, you may be tempted to just skip it. Feeling dejected, hopeless, and tired can make it difficult to manage even the most basic daily tasks.

When compromised mental health has you ignoring your oral health, you may also avoid or simply forget about the importance of visiting your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning. If you suffer from generalized anxiety, you may also suffer from dental anxiety, which could also impact your ability to see the dentist. Eventually, poor oral hygiene at home and lack of professional dental care can lead to problems like tooth decay, periodontal disease, and more.

Teeth Grinding

Many people see their mental health stresses manifesting in physical ways. You may hold tension in your neck or back but, for many people, their mouth and jaw is where the stress resides. This can lead to grinding teeth while sleeping or clenching teeth during waking hours. These bad habits are the fast track to TMJ problems, worn enamel, damaged dental work, broken teeth, gum recession and serious jaw pain, headaches, and more.

Nutritional Deficiencies

People who are depressed or anxious may lose their appetite and not eat enough of the right foods or too many of the wrong sugary foods or beverages. This poor nutrition can cause a host of oral health problems. An influx of sweets, especially combined with lacking oral health care, leaves teeth constantly bathed in sugar, which allows tooth decay to settle in and wreak havoc. A poor diet can also lead to low levels of calcium which impacts the health and strength of tooth enamel.

Low Saliva Production

High levels of stress hormones can affect saliva production. Depression, anxiety, or even a period of temporary but severe stress can make your mouth dry. These circumstances create an environment that is ripe for bacteria to take over and attack your teeth. A dry mouth combined with poor oral health care and poor nutrition means disaster is almost inevitable.

For those people who are being treated for their mental health, certain medications can also cause dry mouth, which makes it all the more important to drink water, brush and floss religiously, and talk to your dentist about possible ways to increase saliva production.

Protect Your Oral Health

We understand mental health challenges and how they can take over your life. It is our goal at our Arlington dental practice to help you achieve good oral health no matter what. Do not be embarrassed to seek our help, even if your teeth are in disrepair. Every problem can be fixed, no matter what. When stress, anxiety, and depression attack your mouth, Dr. Alana Macalik is prepared to help, to make every dental visit comfortable and anxiety-free. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.