The link between poor oral health and mental health is often overlooked, although it affects individuals worldwide.
Finding the Trigger
The most common link between oral and mental health, is dental anxiety or phobia. This type of anxiety is triggered by the fear of having to visit the dentist, even if it is just for a routine checkup. Due to the intense aversion to the dentist, individuals will delay their visits or stop going altogether, which in turn leads to poor oral hygiene and can cause some serious physical health issues.
Taking it a step further, anxiety coupled with depression can lead to even worse results in the patient’s oral health. There is usually an increased used of alcohol and tobacco in those who are depressed, coupled with self-neglect with their oral care, which can result in tooth loss over time. In past studies done on those who had lost all or majority of their teeth, they found that patients with depression are almost 30% more likely to have lost all of their teeth.
Causes of Deteriorating Oral Health
Eating disorders, which affects almost 10% of the world’s population, can also cause detrimental oral issues. Disorders such as bulimia nervosa, which has patients self-induce vomiting, can lead to teeth erosion, due to the stomach acids wearing down the tooth enamel. Even a disorder such as anorexia, which does not include self-induced vomiting, can still lead to decayed and/or missing teeth.
When Remedies Become the Problem
Medication to treat the symptoms of the above-mentioned disorders, along with a host of others, is the most common solution when it comes to treatment. However, the adverse effects that these common medications have on oral health is rarely ever discussed. Lithium, which is most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, can lead to extreme dry mouth and swelling on the lining of your mouth. Some antidepressants can lead to dysgeusia, a taste disorder that affects the taste of all foods into something unpleasant.
The direct correlation between poor mental health and poor oral health is evident, but what should patients do? It’s important to speak to all your healthcare providers about your fears, any side affects you may have with new medication and to continue to go in for routine checkups. Mental health disorders can make these tasks difficult, but with the right support system, proper oral health can be achieved.