Mental Health and Oral Health: An Unexpected Link

Investigation into the ties between our physical and mental health has led to enlightening discoveries. The results indicate that there are direct and indirect connections between these two aspects of our health. The indirect connections are related to manifestations of symptoms of mental illness and how they affect oral hygiene. Anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression, and eating disorders are the most problematic for oral health. Successful treatment of dental concerns for these patients requires understanding how they intertwine.

Mental Health and Oral Health: An Unexpected Link

One of the most problematic sources of oral health concerns to identify is mental health concerns. The habits that we form as a result of these conditions don’t have a visible indicator. Instead, they are discrete manifestations of our condition that happen to affect how we care for our oral health. Those who live with mental health concerns often experience significant shame due to social stigmas. This means they may be hesitant to speak about the origins of their oral health concerns. This, in turn, makes them difficult to address directly. Consider the following oral concerns resulting from mental health:

  • Neglect:  Depression is just one mental health disorder that can make it difficult to maintain routines. Oral hygiene practices require consistent practice to be effective. Patients presenting with gum disease or tooth decay may be experiencing complications from mental health concerns.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety makes things that others find simple daunting for its sufferers. Social anxiety disorder is just one example. The simple act of being around a group of people can seem overwhelming. Patients experiencing dental phobia are specifically averse to being in or around dentists. This obviously adds a new level of difficulty to maintaining good oral health.
  • Eating Disorders: Enamel erosion can be more severe in patients with eating disorders. This can be the result of dietary choices that increase levels of sugar and acid exposure. More often, it’s the purging aspect of the condition that causes the problem. Repeated exposure to stomach acid wears away at the enamel. These patients often also experience calcium deficiency.
  • Over-brushing: Over brushing can manifest as the result of several mental health conditions. Those who spend too much time brushing their teeth can damage their gums or teeth. This latter is the result of the toothbrush wearing away at the enamel. This is just one manifestation of this concern.
  • Medications: Certain medications that are used in controlling mental health concerns can impact oral health. This is most common in those that cause a condition known as Dry Mouth. Dry Mouth impacts the body’s ability to produce enough saliva. Saliva is the main line of defense against tooth decay.

This list represents the most frequently encountered oral health concerns in those with mental health issues. If they aren’t properly addressed, the patients can experience lasting consequences. Ongoing studies reveal that those with mental health issues tend to experience higher instances of oral health concerns.

Team With Your Oral and Mental Health Professionals

Working with your team of experts is the best way to address these concerns. Your specialists know their fields, and working together can come up with solutions for you. Their combined expertise will provide the best advice and techniques to address your oral health concerns. Call them both today to start the next steps.

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Dr. Randy Furshrman
Eduardo Solórzano, DDS

Are experts in the fields of cosmetic and general dentistry serving the Miami, FL area. Between them, they bring 43 years of experience to the patients that rely on Dentistry of Miami for the area’s best dental care.

Dr. Randy Furshrman
Eduardo Solórzano, DDS

Are experts in the fields of cosmetic and general dentistry serving the Miami, FL area. Between them, they bring 43 years of experience to the patients that rely on Dentistry of Miami for the area’s best dental care.

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