You probably know that common mental health concerns like stress, anxiety, and depression manifest into physical health issues. High blood pressure, sleep problems, heart disease, and digestive issues are all linked to stress and depression, but you maybe never thought about what these conditions can do to your teeth and gums. Research has shown strong correlation between mental health concerns, even at a minor scale, and dental health problems – in a study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey half of those who had been diagnosed with clinical depression rated their dental health as fair or poor. Our Cary dentists are taking a closer look at what factors may lead to this correlation.

Stress, Anxiety, and Bruxism

Bruxism is the clinical term for teeth grinding and jaw clenching. While there are several factors that are related to this condition, including an abnormal bite or misaligned teeth, sleep disorders, stress, and anxiety can also contribute to it. Even certain SSRIs used to treat anxiety and depression can cause bruxism as a side effect. Grinding and clenching your teeth leads to headache, jaw pain, and tension pain in the neck, but more than that, it can cause your teeth to break or loosen or be worn down to the point where significant restorative dentistry is needed to correct them.

Mental Health Issues Stand in the Way of Dental Health Routines

People who are mentally taxed, whether it’s from stress, anxiety, or depression, are less likely to follow the dental health routines necessary to keep their teeth and gums in good condition. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and taking time for bi-annual teeth cleanings and check-ups with your dentist can seem like monumental tasks when dealing with depression. If your schedule is already overloaded and you’re at maximum stress, you may be more likely to forget regular teeth brushing while dental checkups may also get moved to the back burner until it’s too late.

Compounding the issue of skipping good activities for your teeth, people struggling with depression and anxiety are more likely to have less healthy diets. Diets high in sugar, drinking sodas and sweetened coffees rather than water, and skipping foods high in nutrients that are good for your teeth can increase plaque and bacteria that leads to decay and gum disease.

Chronic Inflammation from Stress Leads to Decay and Gum Disease

People under stress, or who struggle with depression and anxiety, tend to release more cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Over time, high levels of cortisol lead to chronic inflammation which weakens the immune system. A weak immune system means the body can’t fight bacteria as well, so decay and gum disease can take hold more quickly and increases the risk of abscess and tooth loss.

Tips to Improve Your Dental Health

Stress and other mental health issues are treatable health conditions. Speaking with your primary care physician can be the first step to tackle those challenges. Meanwhile, make it a point to prioritize your dental health:

  • Set an alarm for the morning and evening to help you brush your teeth regularly.
  • If you struggle with making phone calls to book a dental appointment, many dentists, including our family dentists in Cary and Holly Springs, have appointment request forms that are easy to fill out.
  • Keep teeth healthy, simple snacks and bottled water convenient to avoid relying on quick, packaged sweets and sodas.
  • Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. You deserve to be healthy and should prioritize your health, so it’s okay to take a few minutes a day or a few hours every few months to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Schedule Your Appointment with Our Cary Dentists Today

We’d like to invite you to book a checkup with our family dentists where you’ll receive quality care in a safe, welcoming environment. To schedule an appointment, give our dentist office in Cary a call at (919) 467-2203 or reach out to our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and you can also use a contact form to request an appointment.