• Alina Cretu

Mental Health and How it Affects Your Mouth

The body and the mind have a strong connection. Therefore, when a problem arises in one, it is likely to have an effect on the other. Mental illnesses and oral health are a great example of this association. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, "Almost two-thirds of people with depression reported having a toothache in the last year. Half of all people with depression rated their teeth condition as fair or poor. A scientific review of related studies found a strong link between periodontal disease and mood conditions like stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness."

Even something as simple as daily stress can affect oral health. Stress increases your hormone levels of cortisol. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. However, too much cortisol can lower your immune system, which leaves you vulnerable to gum inflammation and gum disease.

A symptom of depression, especially in cases of severe depression and major depressive disorder, is neglect to hygiene. People with depression may brush and floss at irregular intervals, leading to decay or gum inflammation. They may also miss dental appointments and have unhealthy diets.

Anxiety is not only linked to a higher level of cortisol, which causes many problems as said before, but also leads to a higher risk of canker sores, dry mouth, and teeth grinding. In addition, people who have anxiety may also have a dental phobia, leading to irregular dental visits. Irregular dental visits have a severe impact on dental health.

Many medications that are prescribed for antidepressants or anti anxiety treatments have the common symptom of dry mouth. Patients with dry mouth may complain of associated dryness of the lips and throat, oral soreness or burning, altered taste sensations and halitosis. They may find chewing, swallowing and speaking difficult. In addition, this increases the risk for candidiasis, oral yeast infections. Dry mouth can lead to severe tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. In fact, 30 percent of all tooth decay in older adults is caused by dry mouth, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Make sure to talk to your dentist or physician if you are at risk for dry mouth due to medications. They can prescribe both at home methods and medications to resolve this problem before it becomes a more serious issue.