Depression is one of the most diagnosed mental health disorders in the United States today, impacting as many as 14.8 million American adults. It can be a debilitating illness, affecting your ability to perform daily tasks and negatively impacting your quality of life. There are a number of ways oral health may be connected to our mental health, according to a myriad of studies. Periodontal disease has been associated with some mental health disorders, particularly clinical depression.
Why You Do Not Want to Get Gum Disease
A 2010 study found significant associations between oral health, depression and quality of life. The link between the two may be multi-faceted. First, depression can lead to teeth clenching and grinding, which can increase the risk for periodontal disease. Depression also increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which could in turn create a ripe environment in the mouth for periodontal disease.
On the flip side, if you do acquire gingivitis (a result of too much bacteria in the gums. It is less severe than periodontitis; however, gingivitis can be a prerequisite to the disease, if not treated properly), it surely will give the person an uncomfortable feeling. If he/she is already in a negative mental state,and you acquire periodontal disease, you could easily fall into depression.
Consequences of Depression
This feeling of gloominess can suppress the immune system, which may make it hard for your body to fight off bacteria in the mouth (and anywhere else in the body) which can subsequently result in infection.
Consequences of depression can be poor eating habits that can directly impact the health of your entire body, including your teeth and gums. At the same time, the symptoms associated with depression like sadness, fatigue and loss of motivation could affect how well you care for your teeth, which could lead to periodontal disease over time. Even the medications used to treat depression can dry out the mouth and consequently, less saliva (a bacteria fighter) will result reduced protection for your teeth and gums. This is why people with chronically dry mouths tend to have a higher incidence of periodontal disease.
Because there is such a compelling link between oral and mental illness, you should share your medical history with your dental provider to ensure you are receiving the oral care you need the most. A healthy smile does much more than enhance your appearance and increase your self-confidence. It will make you feel better as well and the healthy habits you use to retain that bright smile may also benefit your body and mind in a myriad of ways. One tip for maintaining oral health is to start young, so if you have children, get them in the habit of brushing and flossing early. If you find yourself in a depressing situation or in the group that is prone to depression, why complicate it with poor oral health?
Bottom line: Oral hygiene is an important part of any healthy regimen, both now and in the future.