Are You More Likely to Lose Your Teeth when You Experience Long Term Distress?

Looking after your dental health is important for your mental health

Are You More Likely to Lose Your Teeth when You Experience Long Term Distress? In this article Jane Fisher explores how emotional distress can impact on teeth health and what you can do to about it.

Managing the stress, anxiety and depression associated with hearing voices can be a lifelong challenge. Whether hearing voices is something you have routinely experienced, or is the effect of an acute stress event, it is crucial to seek help and form good habits to manage your mental health before it takes its toll on your physical health.

A recent study from researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Psychiatry and the San Francisco VA Medical Center reports that anxiety and depression can lead to a number of chronic health conditions including headaches, high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, sleep issues, obesity, and gastrointestinal issues. On top of those common physical conditions, research also shows a correlation between gum disease, tooth loss and mental health. Here’s why.

The Detrimental Effects of Cortisol

Conditions like stress and anxiety cause our bodies to produce elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can increase the progression of periodontal disease and ultimately lead to tooth loss. In fact, according to a report by Steve Kisely, MD, PhD in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people with severe mental illness have 2.7 times the likelihood of losing all their teeth, compared with the general population. At least if tooth loss does happen, there are new options like dental implants that help prevent further periodontal disease and are work much more like natural teeth compared to dentures.

Unhealthy Habits

It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults in the UK experience tooth decay. Coping with stress and anxiety can unfortunately manifest as a variety of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to that statistic. Among those, self-medicating through smoking and drinking sugary beverages both have particularly negative effects on dental hygiene. Smoking can lead to tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and even mouth cancer. Sugary drinks, including alcohol, introduce sugar to bacteria that lives in plaque, which reacts to create acid that then gradually dissolves the enamel in the teeth, leading to decay. To prevent the ill effects of self-medicating — and tooth decay is just one side effect — it’s important to seek professional support from a counselor or psychiatrist who can recommend healthier ways of coping or prescribe medications to manage more severe mental health conditions.

Distracted Dental Care

For anyone who’s ever coped with mental illness, or lived with someone who has, you’ll understand that it has a way of taking over one’s life and making it hard to focus on healthy behaviors like brushing and flossing regularly, visiting the dentist, or eating healthy. Without good dental hygiene practices, oral health can quickly decline. In addition to professional support, having supportive family who can help keep healthy behaviors in the routine is priceless. Particularly as allowing a physical health condition such as tooth pain to become chronic can only exacerbate mental ill-health according to the Mental Health Foundation and data from the World Health Survey that says people with two or more long-term conditions are seven times more likely to experience depression than those without a long-term condition.

When hearing voices is also coupled with high stress and anxiety, it’s important to remember to seek help in managing your mental health. Left unchecked, the side effects for physical health can be quite serious and even impact your oral health. But establishing good routines can easily prevent something as extreme as tooth loss.

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