Our mental health is as important as our physical health, but it often gets overlooked, whether it’s due to social stigma, embarrassment or just not realizing exactly how vital it is to our daily life. Unfortunately, this can cause problems that have a serious impact on our daily lives. Depression and anxiety can affect our jobs, our relationships with others, and even our relationship with ourselves.
But another way that many people don’t realize that mental health can impact us is in our oral health. Yes, our oral health can affect our brain health, and vice versa. Here’s how.
Oral Health and Mental Health
Many new studies have revealed a dangerous link between oral health and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s because the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease have been found in the brains of some Alzheimer’s patients, leading researchers to believe that the two are somehow connected. While there are no definitive answers, studies have proven that there is a link. Until more research is conducted, we recommend maintaining your oral health to the best of your ability to reduce your Alzheimer’s risk.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two mental health problems that often go untreated. Whether patients simply don’t know there is treatment available or are avoiding treatment due to a lack of insurance, embarrassment or shame, treating depression and anxiety sometimes falls by the wayside.
Some people don’t even consider it a “real” or serious problem. This of course can lead to many problems in life, but it can also negatively affect oral health, and can have serious consequences.
One such consequence is bruxism, or teeth grinding. While some people naturally grind their teeth, whether from genetics or bad bite, others grind them during times of high stress or anxiety. This can be extremely dangerous to your oral health. For starters, it can cause fractures in the teeth, including cracks, chips and even lost teeth.
If you grind your teeth, try to pay attention to when and why you’re grinding them. Is it in your sleep? During traffic? At work? There are many different times of stress that you could be grinding your teeth – often without even realizing it. If you do find yourself grinding your teeth, speak to Dr. Mingus about having a custom bite guard created for you to help protect your teeth from the dangers of bruxism.
Another way depression and anxiety can affect the teeth is jaw clenching. While jaw clenching may or may not include bruxism, it can still cause many oral health problems, including jaw pain and stiffness, or a condition called temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJD. Tempormandibular joint dysfunction affects mostly women of childbearing age, but it can affect anyone. This painful condition not only causes jaw pain and stiffness, but it can also cause pain in the back and neck, as well as migraine headaches and even tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
Thankfully, there are also treatments for TMJD, including orthotic devices that position the jaw in its proper place and training the body to keep the jaw aligned. Other methods include physical therapy and warm compresses, but these should be done in conjunction with an oral health solution. If you are a jaw clencher, speak to Dr. Mingus about your custom orthotic and other treatment options.
Finally, an often overlooked symptom of depression and anxiety on the teeth is a simple lack of oral health and hygiene care. Some people with severe depression also let their oral health fall by the wayside. Some may be unable to find the motivation to properly care for themselves by regular brushing, flossing and attending dental appointments. This lack of care can cause problems like cavities and gum disease.
Another factor is poor diet, as those with depression and anxiety are less likely to eat healthy, balanced diets. If you believe you suffer from depression or anxiety, speak with a mental health professional about treatment.
Odontophobia, or the fear of the dentist, is a very real fear. In fact, it is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from odontophobia. Though it can range from a simple case of the jitters in the dental chair to outright avoiding the dentist altogether, odontophobia is a serious condition when it comes to your oral health.
If you are afraid of going to the dentist, don’t let that fear control you. Is there something that would make your trip to the dentist easier? Some patients have found that meditation, diffusing essential oils and playing relaxing music have all helped to relax them during their exam.
Just remember, if you are afraid to see a dentist and avoid scheduling regular appointments, you could make a bad situation worse, as cavities can grow, gums can recede, and breath can worsen with the lack of dental intervention.
Finally, a bad bite or crooked, chipped, missing or broken teeth can be dangerous to your self-esteem. When your self-esteem is low, you are more likely to carry that insecurity over into your daily life. Whether you hide your smile or avoid social situations, poor self-esteem can be very isolating, which can make mental health a lot worse. Dr. Mingus specializes in giving you the smile of your dreams while making your teeth, mouth, and jaw align and function properly. It will be the happiest and healthiest smile possible!
Remember, your mental health is part of your total body health, so don’t neglect it. Brush your teeth daily, at least twice a day. Floss your teeth, and see Dr. Mingus if your insecurity about your smile is possibly contributing to poor mental health. Our focus is your overall health, not just oral health.