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Depression and your oral health

Your mouth and your mental health are related

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the world. More than 280 million are affected globally, according to the World Health Organization.

When you or someone you love is struggling with depression, it can be easy to overlook oral health. Yet maintaining good oral care is an important factor in your overall mental health.

How is depression related to oral health?

Motivating yourself to brush and floss can often be a challenge even when times are good. But when you’re dealing with depression, you’re even less likely to keep up with your oral care routine or to visit your dentist.

The connection between depression and oral health doesn’t end there. Recent research on mouth ulcers suggests a genetic link between depressive symptoms and the mouth. While the research is just at a starting point, it may provide some insight in understanding the deep link between your mood and oral health.

Additionally, a  fact sheet produced by the University of Washington’s dental education program suggests a connection between depression and decreased salivary flow, a condition that can increase cavity-causing bacteria and the risk of gum disease.

What can I do to manage my health?

Overall, here are few things you can do to help improve both your mood and your oral health:

  • Tell your dentist what’s going on. Many people are understandably reluctant to share information about their mental state with their dentists. But it’s important your dentist understand why you may be having trouble focusing on something like brushing your teeth. He or she may have some helpful suggestions to get you through the rough patches.
  • Try to stay active. Even just a little outdoor physical activity each day has been shown to be effective in helping to alleviate depression. The sun’s vitamin D is your friend. When you exercise, your brain also releases proteins that help improve brain function. This combination can help counteract the effects of depression.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables. Do your best to stay away from carbs and sugars. In addition to being bad for your teeth, they can spike your blood sugar, which may worsen depression symptoms. Stick with fruits, crunchy vegetables, nuts and legumes, which help regulate your mood and improve the health of your teeth.
  • Brush twice a day and floss at least once. Keeping a routine is helpful not only for your spirit, but for your oral health as well. Create a schedule for self-care each day — bathe, make yourself breakfast, brush and floss and then go for a walk. Encourage yourself by setting a daily calendar reminder or by asking a friend or family member to call you each day to make sure you stay on track.
  • Get help for your depression. Speak to your physician about the problems you’re having and ask for a referral to a therapist or mental health professional.

What does my dentist need to know?

Many anti-depressants can cause oral health side effects, including dry mouth, teeth grinding (bruxism) and trouble swallowing. So be sure to tell your dentist which medications you’re taking so he or she can help you manage these side effects. It’s also important to let your physician know if your dentist has prescribed anything for you as well.

Last updated September 7, 2021

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.