During particularly stressful periods, like the one we’re facing now, individuals with mental health illnesses may feel even more isolated and experience a worsening of symptoms. As a result of their challenges, these people may unfortunately lose overall focus on their normal health habits. Neglecting dental care can then result in dental decay (cavities), progressing gum disease, and, if not properly addressed, lost teeth.
Some medications that treat depression and anxiety can reduce saliva flow, causing “dry mouth” which can lead to decay. An increase in cortisol (a stress hormone) can weaken the immune system, leaving patients more vulnerable to gum disease and, as we see in so many recent studies, other systemic diseases related to inflammation from bacteria.
Cigarette smoking, the overuse of convenience foods, and acidic drinks can wreak havoc on our teeth and gums. Poor mental health can equal poor dental health, and poor dental health can result in poor mental health since patients who neglect teeth may have bad breath and missing teeth which affects self-esteem.
How Can You Help?
Offering support can mean just lending a non-judgmental ear. Talking about wellbeing might include discussions about exercise and healthy diets to help depression and anxiety. And these steps can also help dental health.
You might want to help provide resources. We’ve included some here: