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Why Dental Health and Emotional Health Go Together

Woman having teeth examined at dentists
Dentist visits may make you feel anxious, but what happens to your oral health when that anxiety is a daily occurrence? While many people assume that their emotional and mental state is separate from the rest of their health, the opposite is true in the case of oral health.
When you're struggling with difficult emotions, your teeth and gums can suffer. On the reverse side, your oral health struggles can also make emotional positivity hard to maintain. Connect the dots between your mouth and your mind to understand how to holistically approach your health.
Direct Dental Damage
Some mental health conditions, such as bulimia, cause direct damage to the teeth due to enamel erosion caused by routine stomach acid exposure. Anxiety may lead to bruxism, better known as tooth grinding. When a patient is struggling with both mental and oral health issues, the patient needs concurrent treatment. A focus on oral health alone will do nothing to address the original cause of the damage.
You don't need a specific mental health condition for your emotional state to damage your teeth. Just uncontrolled stress alone is enough to cause acid reflux that slowly erodes your teeth.
Multiple Opportunities for Infection
Depression, stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotional states suppress your immune system. Your mouth is constantly full of both beneficial and damaging bacteria, and even a small dip in your usual immune system function can lead to a proliferation of the bad bacteria.
Long-term emotional issues can make it harder to fight off gingivitis and gum abscesses, especially when secondary oral health conditions are complicating the situation. If you get depressed or anxious about your difficulties fighting off an infection, the cycle continues.
Skipped Self-Care Practices
Many strong emotional states, such as grief or depression, cause you to struggle with even the most basic of daily self-care tasks. When you drop your usual brushing and flossing habits because you forget or simply can't manage to do them, your oral health quickly declines. If you beat yourself up over the problem, you're even less likely to start sticking with healthy habits again.
In times when self-care like tooth brushing slips, reminders can help tremendously. Even when you can't manage to brush twice a day, do as much as you can to lower your chances of developing gingivitis and cavities. Even occasional brushing and flossing is better than giving up your oral health care entirely.
Poor Self Image
Oral health doesn't just suffer because of emotional issues. Struggles with tooth and gum pain can also affect your mental health. Studies demonstrate a link between poor oral health and higher reports of depression, anxiety, anger, fatigue, and even confusion.
Discoloration or the loss of teeth often lowers self-image, increasing the chances of negative reactions and emotions in reaction to otherwise neutral situations. You may feel like there's no point in trying to maintain your smile and let your oral health go, resulting in further emotional effects as you experience pain and other side effects of poor dental condition.
Inherited Oral Health
Finally, your emotional health may even affect the oral health of your children. Scientists have discovered a link between poor oral health and emotional health struggles in the mothers of the children.
Researchers don't entirely understand why a depressed or anxious mother may raise a child with more cavities, but the evidence is still compelling enough to convince you to get emotionally healthy for your child's sake.
Address your concerns about how your emotional health might be affecting your mouth during your next appointment with us here at Dr. M. Dawn Harvey, DMD, PC