Skip links

Understanding the Mental and Oral Health Connection

It’s quickly becoming undeniable that issues of mental health affect every area of our lives. Studies have been continuing to reveal surprising connections to our overall health. Among these connections is an impact on our dental health. Obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia can all impact our oral health. Successfully identifying these concerns and knowing how to help patients who experience them is more important than ever. That’s why a growing number of dental health professionals are working to provide better options for patients with mental health concerns.

Understanding the Mental and Oral Health Connection

Oral health concerns caused by mental health can be challenging to identify. While growing understanding of these issues is making it easier, the work continues. The most significant factor that makes it hard to identify these issues is the lack of visibility. Oral health concerns from neglect and those from mental health concerns look similar. It’s easier when the dental problems resulting from mental health concerns are caused by over-vigilance. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors can lead to overbrushing and overly aggressive flossing, for instance. The most common oral health concerns caused by mental health include:

  • Neglect:  Many mental health concerns impact our ability to maintain regular routines. Oral hygiene depends on consistent efforts to be effective. Those with depression and similar conditions often experience tooth decay or gum disease as a result.
  • Anxiety: Simple habits and normal behaviors can seem intimidating to those with anxiety. It is as likely that someone suffering from anxiety will avoid brushing their teeth as it is that they will be overzealous about it. Dental phobia is another condition that falls on this spectrum. Those with this phobia often avoid going to the dentist.
  • Eating Disorders: Those who have eating disorders often experience greater degrees of enamel erosion. This is most often the result of dental exposure to acid from vomiting. However, the food choices can also be an issue.
  • Over-brushing: Multiple mental health conditions can result in a tendency to overbrush or overfloss. The excessive time spent brushing can lead to damage to the teeth and gums. These patients may also use abrasive toothpaste, such as those containing charcoal. This type of toothpaste can cause damage if overused.
  • Medications: The medications prescribed to help control mental health concerns can have negative consequences for oral health. The most common reason is dry mouth caused by these medications. Dry mouth reduces the production of saliva. Saliva plays a vital role in protecting our teeth from acids and bacteria.

This list is in no way comprehensive. It merely represents the most commonly encountered oral health concerns of those with mental health. Like any health condition, all the involved elements must be addressed to aid recovery. 

Connect Your Dentist And Mental Health Professional

Your health is a complex and interconnected concern. Getting all of your health professionals working together is the best way to get results. Make sure that all of your practitioners are aware of every aspect of your health. By keeping everyone informed, your health will only benefit.

Skip to content