The expanding body of knowledge related to oral health concerns reveals more about how every aspect of our health can impact every other. Periodontal disease has been shown to impact how well we can control diabetes, TMJ disorders have been connected to poor posture, and now mental health has been shown to be a factor in poor oral health. Stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression all can have an indirect effect on our dental hygiene and keeping our smile beautiful.
Poor Oral Health Can Result From Poor Mental Health, And Can Contribute To Its Severity
The Mental and Oral Health Link
Understanding the effects of mental health disorders on the people who suffer from them can help these patients manage these effects. Those who suffer from conditions like anxiety and depression often struggle with keeping with daily habits like dental hygiene. This isn’t the end of the connection, however. Below we’ll touch on a few consequences of mental health disorders and how they affect our smile:
- Climbing Cortisol Levels – Living with anxiety and depression results in our minds and bodies being in a constant state of stress. As a result, our body secretes higher levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can impact our immune system and make periodontal disease and gingivitis difficult to control.
- Subdued Saliva Production – While there are many medications to help patients who suffer from mental health disorders, dry mouth is a common side-effect. Saliva serves as our front-line defense against plaque caused bacteria; without it, we’re more susceptible.
- Bruxism – Patients who are under regular and persistent stress often develop bruxism. Bruxism is a condition that presents as night-time tooth grinding and jaw clenching. This can impact our teeth by wearing down chewing surfaces and grinding away enamel. In severe cases, tooth fractures and cracking can occur.
- Shame and Chronic Pain – As their oral health degrades and lost, broken, or discolored teeth appear, many patients with mental health concerns begin developing increased levels of shame. Further pain from poor oral health can lead directly to depression as well as fatigue.
The tie between oral and mental health is becoming better understood with every passing year. Both of these topics are complex, but researchers are slowly unraveling the tangled weave that joins the two together.
Some tortures are physical, and some are mental, but the one that is both is dental.
~ Ogden Nash
Additional Health Concerns That Are Tied With Oral Health
Mental health conditions are only the most recent of all the health concerns that have been found to have a tie to oral health. Diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and numerous others have all been found to have some connection to the health of our teeth. Maintaining good oral health is about more than just a beautiful smile; it also serves to help protect the health of our entire body.