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The Silent Struggle: Depression’s Effect on Oral Health

January 12, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — S. John salivonchik @ 1:47 pm
Woman feeling down about her oral health

Depression is often a silent struggle, affecting millions of people worldwide. While its effects on mental and emotional well-being are well-documented, its impact on physical health, including oral health, is overlooked. Studies from the University of Texas Southwest Medical School show that many physical symptoms are linked to depression and affect everyday lives.

If you’re curious about how depression can impact your oral health, continue reading.

1. Poor Dietary Choices

Depression can influence eating habits, often leading to changes in appetite and food choices. Many people may turn to comfort foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. These are, unfortunately, the favorite energy sources of bacterial plaque which can cause cavities and gum disease. In addition, a lack of appetite may result in inadequate nutrient intake essential for supporting excellent oral health. 

2. Risk of Bruxism

Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, is often associated with stress and anxiety which is common in people with depression. Chronic bruxism can lead to tooth wear, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which will decrease quality of life.

3. Neglected Oral Hygiene

Another physical symptom of depression that can affect oral health is a lack of motivation or energy. Many times, depression is like a paralytic for the mind, making it hard to perform even activities that you enjoy. This makes it difficult to brush, floss, or even think about dental care. As a result, patients may neglect their oral care, increasing the risk of dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

4. Increased Dry Mouth

Certain medications used to manage depression symptoms, such as antidepressants and antianxiety medications, have dry mouth as a side effect. Saliva helps with washing away acids and food particles that would otherwise get stuck in your teeth. Without it, you’re far more likely to develop cavities and other oral infections.

5. Delayed Dental Care

Patients battling depression may postpone or avoid going to the dentist due to feelings of apathy, hopelessness, or anxiety. Delayed treatment can worsen existing dental issues, leading to more extensive and costly procedures in the long run.

Addressing depression and its impact on oral health requires a holistic approach. Those who want to break the cycle must deal with both mental and physical aspects of their health. Practice self-care and seek out professional help if needed. Most importantly, know that you’re not alone in your fight, and you don’t have to struggle in silence.

About the Author

If you need a compassionate dentist to help you restore your smile, Dr. John Salivonchik can help. He’s been practicing dentistry for over 20 years and has never lost his love for people. In fact, it’s one of the things he loves most about being a dentist—helping people. Dr. Salivonchik is a graduate of Temple Dental School and has continued to expand his knowledge through multiple continuing education opportunities. Call (610) 502-1545 to schedule an appointment at S. John Salivonchik, DMD, PC, or visit the website to learn more.

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