May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as a dentist, it’s Dr. Leslie-Anne Fitzpatrick’s opportunity to reflect on how mental health impacts oral health. The correlation is strong, and it’s important to be aware of the signs that your mental health is affecting your oral health and the importance of your oral health on your long-term overall health. There are several indirect effects of poor mental health on your oral health as well as some direct impacts on your teeth, including:
Poor Oral Hygiene — Self-care may not be a top priority if you are suffering from depression, anxiety or stress. This includes neglecting your oral hygiene routine. Not brushing and flossing daily can lead to issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss, as well as bad breath.
Avoiding The Dentist — Sometimes, mental health issues can create an extreme fear of visiting the dentist, or people may not feel they have the energy to go or deal with the financial uncertainties around having dental work done. Not seeing the dentist can end up causing a never ending cycle of neglect to your oral health which can cause pain and dental issues down the line.
Poor Eating Habits — If you are not feeling well mentally, it may cause you to have irregular eating patterns or perhaps enjoy comfort eating foods that are high in sugar, leading to a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Medications — Some side-effects of medications used in mental health treatment can cause “dry mouth” where your saliva flow is reduced. This can cause an increased likelihood of dental problems such as mouth sores, increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.
Nail Biting — Sometimes stress and anxiety can lead to developing habits such as nail biting. It might seem harmless, but nail biting can cause your teeth to weaken, fracture, and cause infections.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding/Teeth Clenching) — Again, stress and anxiety may cause you to experience bruxism, usually while you are asleep. This constant pressure on your teeth can cause a misaligned bite, cracks in your teeth, as well as pain around your jaw and headaches.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD): TMJ disorder is a condition that affects the jaw joint and its surrounding muscles. Mental health issues such as stress and anxiety can worsen the symptoms, making it hard to open and close your mouth, or cause jaw pain and headaches.
If you suffer from mental health issues, your symptoms can vary and you may not experience all of the issues above. However, it’s important to be aware of these to be able to spot signs that something might be wrong.
At Solstice Smiles Dental, our experienced, caring, and knowledgeable team is here to help you with all your dental issues. We can provide you with a personalized experience if you are feeling nervous about visiting the dentist in Petworth, or if you’re concerned about our insurance or financial options, we can walk you through all your options before agreeing to treatment.
If you have been neglecting your oral health or know a family member or friend who has, Dr. Fitz is here to help as your dental health is a key indicator of your overall health. With no judgment, and only your best interest at heart, our team can help get you your smile back and direct you to helpful resources to help manage your mental health in the long term.