“Mental health impacts your overall health, including your oral health or the health of your teeth and your gums. Dentists are sometimes the first professionals to identify and diagnose a mental health issue and they make a lot of referrals to counselors and therapists,” explained Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Albers explained that a person’s oral health can offer insight into their stress level, anxiety, mood, and the presence of an eating disorder.
For example, Dr. Albers noted that struggles with stress or anxiety can present themselves through worn enamel from grinding your teeth at night or clenching your jaw. Similarly, she said that people with eating disorders often experience malnutrition or overeat highly processed foods, both of which can lead to high levels of tooth decay, worn enamel, and gum difficulties.
Those struggling with depression often experience a general lack of motivation which can cause them to fall short in caring for their teeth. Additionally, Dr. Albers said that people with depression have an increased perception of pain and may avoid going to the dentist altogether.
“If you are struggling with your oral hygiene, check in with yourself and ask is there a mental health issue that may be standing in the way and if so, this may be important to acknowledge and bring up with your therapist and the two of you together, and with your dentist, can make sure that it does not stand in the way of either your mood or your oral health,” she said.
Finally, Dr. Albers explained that adding more nutritious foods to your diet can benefit both your oral and mental health.