You might not expect a dentist to broach the topic of mental health, but I feel that it’s an important subject to talk about. Mental health doesn’t get the attention that it deserves, especially considering the fact that it affects each and every one of us. In this post, I’m going to discuss how a few common mental health issues are related to your oral health.
Anxiety. Many of my patients experience heightened anxiety levels when it comes time for dental procedures. That’s probably why they’ve come to my office in the first place! I’ve done extensive research on the subject of dental fear, phobia, and anxiety. The number one priority at my practice is to put patients at ease and make their experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Stress and anxiety can show up in your mouth as well. When you get anxious, you’re more likely to clench your jaw or grind your teeth together. This can result in worn down enamel or even chips and cracks in your teeth. You might clench while you sleep too, which puts a lot of pressure on your jaw joints. An inflamed or misaligned jaw joint can result in facial pain, neck pain, and headaches.
Addiction. Many common addictions have an effect on your oral health, as well as your overall wellbeing. Heavy alcohol consumption, cigarettes, and hard drugs all affect your mouth in different ways.
Alcohol can stain your teeth and dry out your mouth, eventually leading to a heightened number of cavities. Cigarettes increase your risk of tooth decay and oral cancer. Hard drugs like meth, heroin, or painkillers can cause what’s known as “meth mouth” or the sudden, rapid decline of almost all aspects of oral health.
In addition, dentists can sometimes feed or even trigger additions. I believe that dentists in America prescribe too many opioid pain medications following dental procedures. Patients with leftover opioids can start to take them when they don’t really need them, leading to long-term dependency. At my office, we give only the amount of opioids that we deem absolutely necessary to keep a patient comfortable in the few days after recovery.
We also don’t judge or shame any patient for struggling with addiction. We want to help everyone who walks through the door get healthy. No shame, no blame, just help.
Mental Health and Oral Hygiene. If your mental health is suffering, then your oral hygiene routine is likely suffering as well. Brushing your teeth and flossing are small acts of self-care. If you’re taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to feel better, even if it’s only by a little bit. If you know that your tooth care routine has been lacking lately, try setting an alarm on your phone to remind to take care of your teeth. I promise you’ll feel better.
Your Dentist Can Help. No matter what your mental state, it’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis. Find a dentist you can trust to share your concerns with. If you are struggling with depression or addiction, it’s important that you feel like you can talk to your dentist about it.
If you’re feeling judged or shamed when you bring it up, find a different dentist. Better yet, give me a call. I’ll treat you with understanding, kindness, and respect. Period.