It is no secret that the last few months have been a challenging time for us all, which is why taking care of your mental health is important now more than ever. However, what you may not know is how closely related your oral health is to your mental well-being. Although the connection between mental health and overall physical shape has been extensively studied, not much focus has been placed on how mental and dental health can affect each other.
The Vicious Cycle
On one hand, research studies show that many psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem can cause dental disease such as erosion, caries, and periodontitis (gum disease). Left untreated, people with severe mental illness and high levels of stress are almost three times as likely to lose all their teeth! This is mainly due to their poor diet and irregular routines, which result in them missing the warning signs of cavities, illnesses and infections.
Evidence also suggests that some of the medication meant to help with mental illnesses can potentially create oral health issues. For example, Lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder, and antidepressants, used to treat depression, have both shown to lead to a higher rate of Xerostomia, also known as dryness in the mouth.
On the other hand, about half of all dental patients experience some type of anxiety about their dental visits, which can sometimes lead to dental phobia. So much so, that perception of dental pain may be intensified by depression or anxiety, regardless of the actual degree of the problem! For example, burning mouth syndrome is a disorder in people with great oral health, who report an overwhelming burning sensation on their tongue and mouth. Making sure you visit a highly experienced professional and communicate your fears with them can help ease some of the nervousness around your appointment. Conscious sedation is proven to help in such instances as well. By having conscious sedation the anxiety is suppressed while under the sedative effect so the whole perception of the dental journey is a much better one.
Although there is a lot about the connection between oral health and mental health that requires further research, one thing is clear - there is a significant link between these two areas of health and wellness.
Living through an infectious disease pandemic, such as COVID-19 can provoke feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to manage our well-being and make sure we are both - mentally and orally healthy! Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your family cope, as we tackle these challenges together:
- Talk about your worries. Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Here at Maida Smiles Dental Clinic we are here for you and would like to here about any dental concerns you might have…
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to checking a couple of times a day.
- Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking, drugs or drinking too much alcohol and make sure to brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Connect with others. Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is essential. There are a number of ways you can stay in touch with friends and family if you or they need to stay at home – phone, messaging, video calls or social media.
Please speak to us if you believe you suffer from dental or other anxiety in any other form, or are dealing with any of the conditions mentioned in this article. As with all other personal and medical information, it will be kept in the strictest of confidence. Likewise, be sure to make note with our clinic of any prescription drugs you are taking during your next visit.