Mental health disorders can do more than negatively impact your mind and body. You may not realize it, but major depression and oral health are actually closely linked. What does this mean exactly? Unfortunately, if your brain is causing you to lack the desire to care for yourself, you’re more likely to experience serious dental decay, infection, or disease. In this article, we’ll discuss the connection between mental and oral health and what you can do to minimize your risk.
The Link Between the Brain and Mouth
The University of Washington’s dental education program states that an estimated 7% of adults suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, and it typically begins around the age of 32. When you lack the desire to engage in activities of any kind and/or experience sadness or feelings of discouragement, there’s a good chance you might be clinically diagnosed with depression. These feelings can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or longer.
What this can lead to is a significant disruption throughout the body, including the mouth. Not only are you more likely to neglect your oral hygiene routine, but you may not eat regularly. If you do, you may not be choosing nutrient-rich food options. Also, the stress you’re experiencing will weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to common oral health problems (i.e., bruxism, dental caries, periodontal disease).
How Your Dentist Can Help
It’s important that you talk to your dentist about your depression. Why? If you’re taking medication to curb the effects, it could be that you experience reduced production of saliva, causing dry mouth. This can lead to an increased accumulation of bad bacteria, resulting in gum disease and cavities. Also, your dental team should know about your medical history to determine how to help treat your mouth should a problem arise.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Improved Smiles and Minds
There are several things you can do to improve the state of your oral health even while undergoing treatment for your depression. These include:
- Maintaining an optimal oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice each day for two minutes, flossing at least once a day, and rinsing regularly.
- Continuing to see your dentist every six months (or more often) for checkups and cleanings.
- Eat nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, leafy greens, low-fat dairy, and nuts, all of which can help to regulate your mood and encourage better oral health. Too much sugar and carbs can cause blood sugar levels to rise, weakening your immune system and causing more problems with your depressive state.
- Get plenty of exercise and vitamin D, as this will work against many of the effects associated with depression.
- Quit smoking and limit your alcohol consumption.
- Talk to your dentist about what you can do to get help.
- See a counselor to discuss your depression and get to the bottom of your disorder.
By taking these steps and being mindful of how you can treat your depression while avoiding oral health issues, you can maintain a healthier smile as well as an improved state of mind.
About the McCarl Dental Group
The four dental professionals at The McCarl Dental Group are skilled in providing patients with the most accurate, precise, and efficient solutions to maintain healthy smiles. Individuals who visit our office can rely on our team to keep information confidential, ensuring only you receive the best possible care no matter the health-related situation you’re facing. If you’re suffering from a mental health disorder or any other similar condition, call our dental office today.