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19 Jan
mental illness

What effect does mental health have on oral health?

Mental illness

People with mental health issues are more likely than the general population to develop oral health issues. This includes an increased risk of gum disease, caries, and even tooth loss. 

Four major causes have been identified by public health researchers. 

Dental hygiene can be hampered by mental illness issues. 

The simplest and most common link is between poor dental hygiene and poor mental health.

  • Why? Because even milder and more common mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can sap your energy and motivation. This is referred to as anhedonia, and it is a common symptom of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
  • People suffering from severe anhedonia may forget to brush their teeth or groom themselves, or they may cancel “non-essential” appointments (such as dental visits) because it no longer matters.
  • The same is true for those who suffer from attention disorders such as ADD or ADHD. These diseases make it difficult to remember routines and pending tasks.
  • Their proclivity to hyperfocus on a single activity or to completely lose track of time also interferes with their daily oral care routine.

Symptoms of mental health issues can be harmful to your teeth and gums. 

Just as there are aspects to mental health, there are ways in which it can inadvertently harm your oral health.

  • Substance use problems are also caused by mental health issues that cause impulsive or reckless behavior (such as manic episodes or borderline personality disorder).
  • Tobacco, as well as harder drugs, can increase your risk of gum disease and tooth loss.
  • However, people with bulimia are at the greatest risk, particularly those who use vomiting as a method of purging.
  • When we vomit, stomach acids enter our mouth, which can damage tooth enamel, increasing the chances of cavities. As a result, up to 47% of all bulimia patients have dental erosion or periodontal disease.
  • Finally, some anxiety disorders can result in canker sores or bruxism (teeth grinding). The former is directly painful and can make brushing and flossing our teeth impossible for a few days.
  • Teeth grinding, on the other hand, can cause dental erosion and leave you vulnerable to tooth decay.

Medication side effects can have an impact on your oral health.

  • Many people with mental health issues can live healthy and productive lives with the right medications. Unfortunately, psychiatric medications can also have an indirect impact on your oral health.
  • Three common side effects of antidepressants and mood stabilizers are:
  1. Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth. This is a common side effect of many popular antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or venlafaxine (Effexor). While not fatal in and of itself, chronic dry mouth can increase your risk of developing gingivitis.
  2. Bruxism, is also known as teeth grinding. Although less common, some depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder medications can cause this. Fortunately, you can protect your teeth by wearing mouthguards.
  3. Syndrome of the Burning Mouth (BMS). A scarier, but thankfully uncommon, side effect linked to antidepressants, antipsychotics, and even sleeping pills. BMS causes an intense burning sensation around your lips, inside your mouth, tongue, or palate, similar to eating a jalapeo. It usually passes, but in severe cases, it can become permanent.

Chronic health conditions can make it more difficult to obtain dental care. 

Having a illness of any kind can make it more difficult to obtain dental coverage. Mental illnesses are no exception.

  • In general, even milder mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can frequently obstruct routine cleanings.
  • When it comes to more severe mental illness, the impact can be dramatic: higher rates of everything from cavities to oral cancer can be found here.
  • People with schizophrenia, psychotic symptoms, or uncontrolled bipolar disorder, for example, are at a higher risk of homelessness and poverty, which affects every aspect of healthcare.
  • Even when properly managed, bipolar disorder can make it difficult to find a stable, long-term job. As a result, their insurance coverage may be interrupted or sporadic, resulting in incomplete dental treatments.

What impact does oral health have on mental health?

  • As previously stated, the relationship between depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and oral health problems is a two-way street. The impact of poor oral hygiene on mental health may be less obvious, but it is still present.
  • Is it possible that your tooth infection is causing your mental illness? Not exactly. However, if you already have a mental health problem, your oral health could cause a relapse.
  • This is especially common in people suffering from panic disorder. Dental anxiety (fear of going to the dentist) can set off a panic attack. If this occurs on a regular basis and is not addressed, it may develop into a full-blown dental phobia, leaving your oral health needs unmet.

If you have body image issues, submitting to the “scrutiny” of a dentist can be difficult. Teeth defects can also harm self-esteem.


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