The Link Between Mental Health & Oral Health

Many of us might not think of dental health as being related to overall physical and mental wellbeing. But, studies show that the connection between oral and mental health is real, and one can directly impact the other. While more research is needed to fully understand these links, individuals are encouraged to be aware of the cyclical nature of mental and oral health and work with their health care providers to address any issues that may arise.

Stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders

The stresses of daily life can take a toll on your oral health in the form of teeth clenching or grinding, also known as bruxism, leading to dental wear and even facial pain. Burning mouth syndrome, a chronic and burning sensation on the tongue and oral tissues, is often connected to depression or anxiety, along with an increase in pain sensitivity. Mood disorders can also be associated with behaviours like smoking and increased alcohol consumption, which carry higher risks for developing gingivitis (periodontal disease) and oral cancer.

Conditions that cause changes in energy levels or mood can have oral health consequences. People with bipolar affective disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder may inadvertently remove enamel and cause damage to gums due to over-brushing or excessive flossing. Damaged enamel can ultimately lead to tooth decay, while traumatic injury caused by excessive and aggressive flossing habits can be associated with gum disease.   

Dental anxiety is a common issue. Dr. Bains and her team at Lewis Estates Dental Centre believe in open communication and a worry-free experience. Our approach is focused on your comfort using open communication, providing contemporary dental care with a gentle touch, and offering sedation dentistry as warranted.

Eating disorders

Body dysmorphia illnesses can create oral health issues. Erosion of tooth enamel can occur if a person consumes highly acidic food or beverages, such as excessive amounts of juice or fruit. In the case of some eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, enamel can be damaged by regular contact with stomach acid caused by gastric reflux or self-induced vomiting. Poor nutrition can also lead to low levels of calcium and have an effect on tooth health.

The impact of medication

Some medications used to treat mental health conditions can have an impact on oral health. A common side effect is xerostomia (dry mouth). Dry mouth occurs when salivary flow is reduced, and increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Stomatitis, which is swelling and redness in the mouth’s lining, can be caused by an oral bacterial infection, and has been a side effect linked to some antidepressants and other mood-stabilizing drugs.

Oral health and self-esteem

Unfortunately, poor oral health can make mental health issues worse. People who have trouble maintaining good dental health or accessing regular care may feel embarrassed by the appearance of their teeth and lack confidence in social situations. Dental issues can make eating and speaking difficult, and pain can lead to anxiousness, depression, and feelings of isolation and increased withdrawal from others. However, there are ways to keep your mental and oral health on track.

Healthy smile, healthy mind

  • Brush your teeth two to three times a day with a quality toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Be sure to floss your teeth daily.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Implement regular exercise and relaxation into your routine.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking and how to handle side effects.
  • Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and oral screenings.
  • Seek advice from a health care professional or specialist if you’re concerned about your mental health.    

Your health is important and your dentist is a vital part of your care. Contact Lewis Estates Dental Centre today to see how Dr. Bains and the team can help you on your wellness journey.

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