Your teeth may also be in bad shape when you’re feeling down. Those dealing with anxiety and depression often experience poor oral health as well. Your mental health can affect every part of your body, including your teeth. What’s more, practicing good oral care habits can improve not just your teeth but also your mental health.

The Connection Between Oral and Mental Health

Mental and oral health are more connected than one would think. Mental health disorders can cause sufferers to search for ways to cope, like smoking, which negatively impacts oral health. Also, when you’re down, you may avoid going to your dental appointments.

People with depression often have toothaches and poor oral health. This is likely because they don’t practice good oral health habits when suffering from mental health issues. Brushing and flossing inconsistently, missing dental appointments, eating poorly, and self-medicating with nicotine can all cause damage to your teeth.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses may cause:

  • Loss of appetite leading to poor nutrition and low calcium levels that weaken teeth enamel. Those with bulimia nervosa vomit after eating, drying their mouths and damaging their teeth and throat.
  • Cravings for sugary foods and drinks, which cause cavities.
  • Low energy that can cause you to avoid dental appointments and fail to brush and floss.
  • Pain from burning mouth syndrome, which causes a burning sensation on the tongue and cheeks.
  • Alcohol or drug addictions and smoking which cause gum disease and oral cancer.
  • Dry mouth caused by medications that treat mental illnesses.

When stressed and anxious, the cortisol hormone increases, and the immune system weakens. This leaves you susceptible to gum inflammation and gum disease. This is made worse when, according to the CDC, about half of dental patients have anxiety about visiting the dentist. Stress also leaves people vulnerable to canker sores, dry mouth, and teeth grinding.

How to Improve Both Your Oral and Mental Health

These simple tips will help you build better habits that improve both your oral and mental health. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to change your entire routine all at once, but to take one step at a time so that you can build a stronger foundation.

Try to start with any of these changes:

  • Brush and floss your teeth twice each day. This only takes a few minutes, and it will help you gain confidence. You can even set an alarm to remind you every morning and evening.
  • Reduce or quit nicotine. As a stimulant, it causes blood pressure and respiration to rise, and keeps you in a cycle.
  • Reduce or quit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant that alters the mood. By reducing or giving up alcohol altogether, you won’t experience that down feeling after sobering.
  • Comfort yourself with apples or other healthy snacks. They don’t have all the sugar that causes your body and teeth to suffer.
  • Keep your mints, gum, and mouth spray with you. The xylitol in many of these items encourages saliva production, preventing dry mouth, plaque, and cavities.
  • Maintain regular appointments for oral exams and cleanings.
  • Exercise regularly, as it boosts your physical and mental health. This will also increase your self-esteem and improve your mood. Starting with just a few minutes a day is enough to make a positive difference.
  • Stay connected with your family and friends, or find a support group. This will offer a sense of belonging, support, and warm feelings.

Partner with Healthcare Professionals

Your primary care physician can offer guidance and refer you to a therapist when experiencing mental health issues. Therapists can offer condition management help through therapy, medications, and tools to cope with your struggles.

A dentist like Dr. Coates can also help you manage the oral health effects of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Share your symptoms and the medications you’ve been prescribed. To discuss your oral and mental health, call the Long Beach dental office of Stephen Coates, DDS, at 562-434-6414 or schedule your appointment online.