Is it possible for a depressed mental state to negatively impact your dental health? According to recent research, there is a connection. As you continue reading, learn how your mental health could be affecting your teeth and gums. Additionally, discover how your local dentist could be of help.
What the Research Shows
Data from a study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination shows that the majority of the participants with depression reported having a toothache in the last year. The study also reveals that half the people with depression rated their dental health as fair or poor. Further research has shown a link between periodontal (gum) disease and stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.
What’s the Connection?
You may be wondering how depression, anxiety or other compromised mental states could impact dental health. Here are some of the correlations:
- Higher Cortisol Levels – Heightened stress levels can cause increased production of a hormone called cortisol, which can compromise the immune system. This can leave you vulnerable to gum inflammation (gingivitis) and periodontal disease.
- Medications – Most anti-anxiety medications cause dry mouth. The lack of saliva can attract more bacteria, which can lead to plaque and cavity development.
- Anxiety-Related Problems – People who suffer from anxiety can be subject to canker sores and teeth grinding (called bruxism).
- Dental Neglect Related to Depression – For people suffering from depression, taking care of their teeth and gums may lose importance. This can leave an opening for a host of dental health issues to develop.
What Can be Done?
In addition to seeking professional help for any mental issue you’re facing, there are some steps you can take to prevent any dental health mishaps. For starters, double down on your dental hygiene. That means getting back to the basics: brushing and flossing at least two times a day.
If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or heightened stress, maintaining regular dental checkups becomes even more important. Typically, you should visit every six months, but if you’ve already been in for your semi-annual checkup and cleaning, it doesn’t hurt to schedule another visit. While there, you should let your dentist know what’s going on.
And if you’re worried about being embarrassed, you can take solace in the fact that more than 260 million people worldwide deal with depression or anxiety. And according to a 2020 NPR article, three out of five Americans are lonely.
The moral to the story is that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you don’t have to worry about being ridiculed when you let your dentist in Dublin know how you’re feeling. By being more forthcoming, you can get the help you need and experience the best dental health possible.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Buck earned his dental degree from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. As part of the comprehensive care he provides at his Dublin office, he offers sedation dentistry to calm any anxiety during dental visits. Dr. Buck practices at Distinctive Smiles, and he can be reached for more information or to schedule a visit through his website.