How Are Your Dental Health and Mental Illness Related?

Dentists can help with your mental health issues

There are many forms of mental illness in our society. It affects people in many different ways, but one way that most people will probably not think about is how it may affect their teeth. The shifts of mood that often accompany mental illness often mean a lack of personal dental care, which results in poor dental health. 


Characteristics of Mental Health

Problems with mental illness often cause people to experience depression or anxiety, which is one of the key signs of mental illness. When this happens, and each episode can last for days or weeks, it often renders the individual unable to perform normal personal care. This means that brushing teeth and flossing are often out the window, and the thought of doing those tasks may hardly even enter their mind. 


Emotional Roller Coasters

Due to frequent or deep depression, mental illnesses can lead to suicide. Some medications that are prescribed for mental illness can produce thoughts of suicide – particularly in young people. 

The rate of suicide – with or without mental illness – is on the rise. Depression can easily lead to a suicide attempt. In America, the number of suicides of people age 10 or older was 45,000 people. It is now ranked as the 10th major cause of death in the U.S. 

Women are twice as likely to have a mental illness that results in depression as men. Still, it may be more common than realized, since it is believed that as many as seven percent of adults in the United States may experience some sort of major depressive disorder. 


Dentists Can Help

Although it may be surprising, a dentist can actually help someone with a mental illness. Even though the patient may never bring up the topic of mental illness, the dentist can learn of it when looking over the patient’s list of medications that they are presently taking. While some may be taken for unrelated purposes due to cross uses of medicines, multiple medications of a similar nature can clearly point to a problem with mental health issues. 

Dentists are trained to know how to work with people, and how to ask questions that get answers. Communicating tactfully can be very beneficial for people with mental instabilities. People of all kinds tend to trust their dentist – if they do not trust, they will go somewhere else. 

When a patient with mental illness finds a dentist that they can trust, they will keep on coming back. The dentist will often be able to tell the mental condition of the person because of the condition of their teeth from one appointment to the next. 


Impact of Mental Health on Teeth

People with mental illness generally do not maintain their teeth while going through an episode. There will often be the following dental problems:

  • Neglect of oral care
  • Cavities
  • Periodontal disease
  • Dry mouth from medications
  • Avoiding dental care
  • Nutritional imbalance

Because patients trust their dentist, they are open to counsel from them. As long as the dentist is aware of the needs of his or her patients, they can provide help and encouragement. Merely taking time to carefully listen to patients can enable a dentist to catch a phrase or two that will reveal an underlying problem. 

In some cases, it might be possible that the person with the mental illness may not have anyone else to talk to. This can lead to greater depression. The dentist, by taking a little more time to pay attention to the other needs of patients, may be able to offer some real help and emotional support when needed. 


About Periodontal Disease

When anyone fails to take care of their teeth, it will often result in periodontal disease. This serious oral health problem is the more advanced form of gum disease. The first symptoms of gum disease are that the gums bleed when you brush them and they may be inflamed. 

Gum disease progresses with a lack of proper dental care. The bacteria in the mouth and inflammation work to destroy the gums, the structural supports for the teeth, and the jawbone. This results in the teeth eventually becoming loose and then falling out. Dry mouth enables the bacteria to multiply faster and create more damage. 

Once periodontitis has started, dental treatment is necessary to stop its harmful effects. When someone has a mental illness, it is important that the person gets regular dental treatments and examinations in order to keep periodontitis under control. The more time that passes between appointments, the greater the damage. If they smoke and drink, the damage occurs even faster. These two habits will also slow down the healing process when dental work is performed.


If you need dental care or periodontal disease treatment and live in the Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Mockingbird/SMU and Grapevine, TX areas, you can get it from Tooth HQ Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS MBA, a Board-certified Periodontist. In addition to gum disease treatment, he also offers cosmetic dentistry to restore your smile. For more information about his dental services, or to set up an appointment, you can call his office today at 214-731-0123