Depression and Oral Health | The Connection

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
November 20, 2018

A stressed man holding his glasses while looking at his computer screen

Depression can negatively affect so many aspects of your health, but did you know that it could even adversely impact your teeth and gums? And did you know that, on the flipside, poor oral health might also have an adverse effect on your emotional state as well? Don’t worry, we’ll explain it all below.

There’s a Connection Between the Health of Your Mouth and Your Mind

Researchers from Deakin University released information that shows there might be a connection between depression and oral health. Put simply, when you’re experiencing problems with your teeth and gums, your odds of feeling depressed might go up. And here’s another interesting point: the worse your dental health, the more severe your depression could be. Who knew?!

How does this work, you ask? Well, according to experts, depression falls into the category of inflammatory disorders. This means that inflammation in the body may lead to mental health problems like depression. And it turns out that, yes, poor oral health could actually be a source of inflammation within the body.

When the researchers set out to see if there’s a connection between the health of your teeth and the well-being of your mind, they realized that the topic hadn’t yet been investigated very much, so they looked at helpful data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey instead. What they realized was that many participants in the survey who reported feeling depressed also stated that the health of their teeth was merely fair or poor.

So it appears that there may be a link between depression and oral health, but experts aren’t yet sure of the exact reason why. Additional research needs to be conducted to discover more and to figure out if it’s possible to prevent or manage depression with the help of good dental care.

Feeling Down? Then You Might Be Neglecting Your Oral Care Routine

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know that it can make you feel extremely unmotivated. You might find yourself no longer focusing on the things that you used to care about, and that includes your own health. So it isn’t really surprising to learn that experts have found a link between depression and a lack of good oral care at home. In other words, individuals who are depressed might be inclined to ignore self-care habits, like daily brushing and flossing, and that could adversely impact the health of teeth and gums.

Beyond that, if you’re depressed, you might not feel the need to schedule those necessary appointments with your dentist for checkups and cleanings. This lack of professional dental care can also take its toll.  

Here are some other bad habits that may result from depression and put your pearly whites at risk:

  • Poor dietary choices
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse

Let’s Not Forget the Effects of Stress!

Something else to think about when considering the connection between mental health and oral health: depression can cause stress, along with a rise in the release of a stress hormone known as cortisol. As a result, the immune system could take a hit, possibly boosting the risk of oral problems like gum disease.

Stress isn’t pretty; we all know that. But a lot of people aren’t aware of the many ways that it can affect the mouth. As an example, when you’re feeling really frazzled because of anxiety or depression, you might find yourself clenching and grinding your teeth (this is known as bruxism). On top of that, stress and depression may also result in dry mouth, which is associated with a greater risk of tooth decay, mouth infections, and gum disease. Yikes!

Side note: Some prescriptions for treating depression may include dry mouth and/or bruxism as a side effect—yet another way that depression and poor oral health might be linked.  

Your Dentist Might Be Able to Help!

Bottom line: your emotional well-being might have an impact on your oral health, and problems that originate in the mouth may be associated with mental disorders like depression. Fascinating, right?

If you’re feeling depressed, don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor to get some much-needed care. It’s also wise to let your dentist know about it, too. Talk about your symptoms, and tell your dentist if you’re taking any antidepressants so he or she can offer the best tips and treatments to help your mouth be as healthy as possible. And, to make all of this easier on your wallet and reduce the stress that can come with paying for dental visits, consider signing up for an affordable dental insurance plan that suits your needs.

Tackling your mental health and oral health might help restore balance and wellness, so it’s important to take care of both body and mind. Here’s to feeling happy on the inside and smiling brightly on the outside!


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