Understanding The Oral Health Consequences of Mental Health Concerns

Woman get teeth examined

Ongoing research has revealed that there’s an intimate connection between mental and physical health. Some parts of this connection are direct. Others are the result of the consequences of suffering a mental health concern. Oral health is just one more area of our physical health that mental health can impact. The most common impacts on our dental health come from eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anxiety attacks. Understanding the impact these mental health issues can have is essential to addressing those impacts.

Understanding The Oral Health Consequences of Mental Health Concerns

Mental health concerns are an insidious opponent to oral health. Rather than being openly visible, the effects of mental illness tend to occur discreetly. Most people who live with mental health conditions experience feelings of shame. As a result, they take steps to hide their condition and its consequences. These efforts result in the more subtle side-effects of their mental health concern go unnoticed. Consider the following ways that mental health can affect your oral health:

  • Neglect: Some mental health disorders can make keeping routines difficult. This difficulty means that dental hygiene practices can be neglected. The resulting tooth decay and gum disease can have profound long-term implications.
  • Anxiety: General anxiety disorder can make doing simple things complicated. This point is especially true in the case of social anxiety disorders. Some patients also experience dental phobia, which is a specific form of anxiety directed at oral health. Fear of pain, anxiety about visiting the office, and shame over their oral health can avoid dental visits. This behavior, in turn, compounds the problem.
  • Eating Disorders: Conditions like bulimia can result in accelerated erosion of the enamel. The binging portion of this condition can involve unhealthy foods that affect the teeth. Purging, on the other hand, bathes the teeth in stomach acid. The result is weak enamel that erodes quickly. Bulimia patients also tend to experience low calcium levels.
  • Overbrushing: On the other end of the spectrum are those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. These patients can spend an excessive amount of time brushing their teeth and gums. This behavior can also accelerate enamel erosion, as well as damaging the gums.
  • Medications: Some medications prescribed for mental health conditions can affect oral health. Dry mouth is a common consequence of many of these medications. Dry mouth impacts the production of saliva. Saliva is an integral part of our defense against decay.

These are the most common impacts those with mental health disorders face. Without being understood or addressed, they can lead to lasting consequences. Studies have revealed that mental health patients experience oral health issues at higher rates than other patients. 

Seek Help From Your Dental Provider And Mental Health Professional

The most important thing any patient experiencing this concern can do is work with their health providers. By communicating your concerns to these professionals, you’ll get the best possible guidance available. Each of these providers is familiar with different aspects of your condition. As a result, they can provide tips, tricks, and guidance on addressing them. Start taking steps to protect your smile and mental health today!

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Dr. Mark Covington with family

Mark and Gina Covington / Husband Wife Practice
The Drs. Covington are proud members of the Hickory, NC community, where they focus on the well-being of their children and their patient family. Dr. Gina and Dr. Mark both graduated from the University of Mississippi Dental school and are now dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to their patients.

Dr. Mark Covington with family

Mark and Gina Covington / Husband Wife Practice
The Drs. Covington are proud members of the Hickory, NC community, where they focus on the well-being of their children and their patient family. Dr. Gina and Dr. Mark both graduated from the University of Mississippi Dental school and are now dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to their patients.

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