Can Mental Health Affect Your Teeth and How?

Find out how mental health can affect your teeth – Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It encompasses how individuals think, feel, act, handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Teeth are hard, calcified structures found in the mouth that are used for biting and chewing food. They play a crucial role in the digestive process and contribute to speech and facial structure. Mental health and dental health have a connection as established by experts.  Studies have shown that poor oral health can impact eating, speech, self-esteem, and social interactions, leading to further harm to mental well-being.


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Conversely, mental health issues like anxiety and depression can lead to behaviors such as neglecting dental hygiene due to a lack of motivation or energy, which in turn can worsen oral health conditions. People with mental illnesses may engage in behaviors that are harmful to their teeth, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Neglecting oral care due to mental health issues can lead to dental problems mentioned below!

How mental health affects your teeth

Can Mental Health Affect Your Teeth and How?

Tooth loss: People with common mental disorders have higher rates of decayed, missing, and filled teeth surfaces than controls, with severe mental illness patients being 2.7 times more likely to have lost all their teeth compared to the general population.

Tooth Decay (Dental Caries): Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety can lead to a decrease in motivation and energy levels. This often results in neglect of oral hygiene routines, such as brushing and flossing. Untreated plaque buildup and sugary foods create the perfect environment for the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid, breaking down tooth enamel and leading to cavities.

Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease): Gum disease can be triggered by poor oral hygiene as well as changes in immune response due to stress and mental health conditions. It begins as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and can progress to periodontitis, a severe infection damaging the soft tissue and bone that support teeth. Periodontitis can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Several medications prescribed for mental health conditions, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, have the side effect of dry mouth. Saliva plays an important role in washing away food debris and neutralizing acids in the mouth. A lack of saliva increases the risk of tooth decay and gum infections.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Teeth grinding and clenching are often triggered by stress and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by mental health conditions. While bruxism can also occur due to sleep disorders, mental health plays a significant role. Chronic bruxism wears down the teeth and can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and tooth damage.

Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers): While the exact cause of canker sores is still debated, they are often linked to stress, anxiety, and certain mental health conditions. These painful sores on the soft tissues inside the mouth usually heal on their own, but frequent occurrences can be a sign of underlying mental distress.

How to fix mental health teeth

To address dental conditions related to mental health, several strategies can be employed:
Oral Health Assessments: Regular assessments using standard checklists by healthcare professionals can help identify and address dental issues in individuals with mental health conditions.

  • Dry Mouth Management: Dry mouth, a common side effect of psychotropic medications and anxiety, can be alleviated with over-the-counter products like oral moisturizers, mouth rinses, toothpaste, or xylitol gum.
  • Teeth Grinding Treatment: Wearing a night guard and collaborating with a psychiatrist to manage medication side effects and psychological factors can help address teeth grinding issues caused by mental health conditions.
  • Therapy for Dental Anxiety: Individuals experiencing extreme anxiety related to dental care can benefit from therapy to address their fears and improve their dental experience.
  • Regular Dental Visits: Consistent visits to the dentist are crucial for maintaining oral health, especially for individuals with mental health conditions who may struggle with daily dental care routines.
  • Nutritious Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables not only benefits overall health but also supports good oral health, which is particularly important for individuals with mental health challenges.
  • Maintaining Oral Hygiene: Despite challenges, individuals should prioritize regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups to prevent oral health issues exacerbated by mental health conditions.

By implementing these strategies and seeking professional guidance, individuals can effectively manage their oral health in the context of mental health challenges.

Symptoms

Symptoms of mental health conditions that can affect oral health include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations
  • Hostility or violence
  • Sudden changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Persistent delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, highly disorganized behavior, or extreme agitation
  • Manic symptoms such as euphoria or irritability, increased activity or energy, and other symptoms like increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, increased self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, and impulsive reckless behavior
  • Depressive episodes with depressed mood (feeling sad, hopeless, empty) or a loss of pleasure or interest in activities, for most of the day, nearly every day
  • Bipolar disorder symptoms, including alternating depressive episodes with periods of manic symptoms
    Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, involving abnormal eating and preoccupation with food as well as prominent body weight and shape concerns

These symptoms can lead to dental problems like tooth loss, periodontal disease, tooth erosion, dry mouth, and burning mouth syndrome, among others.

ALSO READ: Disadvantages of deep cleaning teeth – facts to know


Sources reference 

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
  2. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms
  3. https://www.dentalhealth.org/mental-illness-and-oral-health
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8859414/

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