Oral and Mental Health Link
When you’re brushing your teeth every night before bed, you’re probably not thinking about how your oral health can affect your overall wellbeing and mental health. It seems like a big leap to take when relating your teeth to your mental health, but studies show that oral and mental health link is real.
Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic, says that “Mental health impacts your overall health, including your oral health or the health of your teeth and your gums. Dentists are sometimes the first professional to identify and diagnose a mental health issue and they make a lot of referrals to counselors and therapists.”
Related Article: A Deep Dive into the Connections Between Oral and Behavioral Health
Anxiety, Stress Contribute to Your Oral Health
If you’re experiencing stress in your daily life, you could be clenching or grinding your teeth without even knowing. This can cause pain, dental wear, and facial pain. If you’re busy and struggling to juggle your schedule, you may be missing your morning or evening tooth brushing, flossing, etc. When our mental health is struggling, how well we take care of ourselves can certainly struggle as well.
- Anxiety can give us dental anxiety, meaning we’re scared to visit the dentist and may avoid doing so.
- Depression or low energy levels can leave us unmotivated and we may forget to take care of our teeth and gums.
- Depression and anxiety can increase our pain levels and may make us worried about getting any dental work done.
Over time, neglecting our oral health can lead to issues such as:
- Gum disease
- Dry mouth
- Tooth loss
Related Article: Are You Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth While You Sleep?
According to Steve Kisley, MD, PhD, “A strong interaction exists between oral health and mental health. People with mental illness, particularly severe mental illness, are at greater risk of oral health problems because of poor nutrition and oral hygiene; the heavy consumption of sugary drinks; comorbid substance misuse including tobacco, alcohol, or psychostimulants; and financial or other barriers to accessing dental care.”
Read more of Kisley’s study HERE.
Do You Have Stressed Out Oral Health?
You may think about stress being a factor behind many health problems, but now that we know the truth is, stress can also have a negative effect on your oral health as well due to the oral and mental health link.
There are six main ways that stress can affect your oral health, including:
- Teeth Grinding: If you grind your teeth, you probably do it while you sleep that can cause headaches, a sore jaw, and damage to your teeth. Severe teeth grinding can cause oral health issues, such as loose teeth or even broken or lost teeth. Stress and anxiety are a major cause of teeth grinding. Meditation, counseling and exercise are some ways to reduce the stress that causes teeth grinding. Your dentist can also make you a tooth guard to wear at night.
- TMJ Disorder: TMJ stands for temporomandibular joints. These are the joints that you use to move your lower jaw. They are located just below your ear. Swelling or stiffness in these joints can cause a TMJ disorder. Symptoms can include pain, clicking and popping. Stress is a major cause of TMJ problems. For instance, stress can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth.
- Gum Disease: Stress makes it harder for your body to fight off infections. Gum disease is an infection of your gums that can cause loose teeth, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Stress can also contribute to gum disease if it causes you to grind your teeth, clench your jaw, or smoke cigarettes.
- Canker Sores: If you are like most people, you have suffered through occasional attacks of these painful and annoying mouth ulcers. Triggers include vitamin B deficiency and any type of mouth injury or irritation. Several studies now show that stress is another big trigger for canker sores. If you still get a canker, your doctor or dentist may prescribe a gel or cream to relieve the pain.
- Biting Your Nails: Nail biting can move your teeth out of position. It can also damage your teeth. The germs from your fingernails can be transferred to your mouth and can lead to mouth infections.
- Burning Mouth: Burning mouth syndrome is a dry, hot and burning feeling in your mouth. Stress, anxiety and depression may be part of the problem. Dry mouth syndrome is more common in women after menopause, so hormone changes may also be involved. Treatment for dry mouth syndrome can include stress counseling and antidepressant medication. Stress-related smoking and drinking can make burning mouth worse.
Each of these issues can be results from too much stress in your life. However, there are steps you can take to keep your mouth healthy, so you don’t have stressed out oral health!
Related Article: Daily Stress: The Mental Health Dental Health Link
Healthy Mind, Healthy Smile
To help our oral health and in turn, our mental health, here are a few tips!
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a quality toothbrush
- Floss your teeth daily
- Visit your dentist regularly – they are often our first line of defense
- Try adding in exercise and relaxation into your weekly routine
- Seek help from a health care professional if you’re concerned about your mental health
Related Article from WebMD: How Does Your Oral Health Affect Your Mental Health?
Solution for Grinding Your Teeth – Mouthguard
Dr. Skrobanek can help prevent cracked and fractured teeth by designing a mouthguard or oral appliance to wear at night to keep you from clenching and grinding your teeth. We know there’s a dental health mental health link and thankfully, mouthguards are a wonderful way to protect your teeth at night. They can also help with sleep apnea and snoring. Each mouthguard will be custom-made by Dr. Skrobanek to fit your mouth comfortably and will keep your teeth separated so they don’t grind together.
There’s more good news: Custom mouthguards or oral appliance therapy is covered by many insurance plans and the team at GPS Dental can help answer any questions you may have about your coverage.
GPS Dental Wants You to be Healthy
As you know, the oral and mental health link is so important; however, when your body is stressed, it can lead to having stressed out oral health! A solid foundation that includes brushing and flossing daily is key for you and your family. Dr. Skrobanek and his Team can help you maintain or improve your oral health, because they can assess your situation and customize a treatment plan at whatever stage you find yourself.
It’s also important to stay up to date on your cleanings and routine visits to your dentist. In the meantime, having a strong and steady oral health routine – brushing twice a day and flossing once – is the best thing you can do for your oral health! Remember to schedule your dental exam and cleaning at GPS Dental. We look forward to seeing you at your next dental appointment.
Dr. Gary P. Skrobanek and his experienced, friendly team at GPS Dental offer affordable family dentistry and gentle dental care in the San Antonio, TX area. Our Brooks City Base dentist office is conveniently located and offers early morning appointment times Monday through Friday to meet your needs. At GPS Dental, we provide most dental services, from family and general dentistry to dental implants, sleep apnea, TMJ / TMD Treatment, cosmetic dentistry and much more. We accept most dental insurance plans and offer affordable financial solutions for any budget. Call us at (210) 633-3477 to make an appointment.