How do eating disorders, stress, anxiety and depression impact the health of your teeth?
On a global scale, the conversation around mental health has become more commonplace, with a deeper understanding of the human psyche and how it works coming to the fore. With more people than ever experiencing mental illness or disorders, at a time in history where stress has increased, it’s important for us to understand not just mental health on its own. Health is a full-picture concept, we cannot afford to look at specific issues in isolation, many of the health systems are extremely connected and the condition of one area can affect the others.
Undoubtedly, one of the most critical relationships is the close connection between our mental health and oral health, with specific unique characteristics that can make issues like stress, anxiety and depression lead to dental health issues like decay and disease. People who suffer from mental health tend to be more prone to other health issues, and the impact on our teeth, gums and even jaws are one set of concerns that need to be addressed.
What makes someone with mental illness a higher risk for dental health issues?
Poor Diet and Stress
Poorly managed stress can lead to bad eating habits that are detrimental to dental health. Very often one of the effects of stress is an increase in the consumptions of foods that are high in sugar, which in turn, cause an increase in acids that attack the enamel of the tooth and triggers decay. Anxiety and depression sufferers can also self-medicate with alcohol which also contributes to the break down of the tooth, but also to issues like nighttime teeth grinding.
Binge Eating Disorder and Decay
Eating disorders like bulimia are common mental health illnesses that don’t just cause psychological damage, but severe physiological issues like the decay of teeth. This is because the chronic purging and vomiting that come with the condition create an excessive amount of acid in the mouth, which will break down the teeth enamel, and make them more prone to cavities and gum damage.
Stress, Anxiety and Teeth Grinding
Bruxism or teeth grinding is a dental health disorder that’s very detrimental to teeth, gums and your jaws. Grinding or clenching your teeth exerts pressure on teeth, weakening them and making the patient more prone to TMJ disorder. People who suffer from anxiety and depression often grind their teeth as a coping mechanism, sometimes while they are asleep.
Depression and Dental Hygiene
Through research and more openness about depression, one of the things we’re learning is how the condition impacts the patient, their habits and their immediate environment. One of the most common symptoms of depression is a reduction in self-care and personal hygiene. The hopelessness and loss of motivation the person feels with depression can lead to a complete breakdown of healthy habits like personal cleanliness, keeping a clean home environment and neglect of dental health. Patients will stop making dental care habits like brushing and flossing their teeth a priority, which will inevitably lead to infections, cavities, gum disease and decay.
Improving mental health doesn’t just make our communities happier, it also makes them healthier in multiple ways. It will benefit their physical, nutritional and dental health, and reduce cases of dental infection and disease that result from mental illnesses and conditions. The Dental Pearls team is dedicated to helping people achieve better dental health, and we can help you create habits that protect your teeth. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you and your family.