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How Depression Affects Your Dental Health

Woman on window sill appearing sad and depressed

Depression sufferers can experience a range of symptoms that affect all aspects of their life - even their dental health. According to one estimate, two out of three people with depression also have dental problems.

Do you have depression or have a family member who’s suffering from depression?

If so, then you need to learn about the oral health problems caused by this sickness so that you can avoid any further complications.

What is depression?

Depression is so much more than a case of the blues. It’s a serious and complex condition that often involves chemical imbalances in the brain or experiencing some traumatic event.

Common symptoms include:

● Feelings of worthlessness ● Inexplicable and profound sadness ● Apathy ● Loss of interest in enjoyable activities ● Sleep and appetite disruptions ● Fatigue ● Other health problems

In a depressed state, an individual finds it difficult to function in day-to-day life. Maintaining a normal routine, caring for oneself, and socializing with others become nearly impossible.

Depression’s impact on oral health

With little motivation to care for themselves, a person with depression may not do well with brushing and flossing. He or she may stay indoors a lot to avoid interacting with others, perhaps even spending a lot of time asleep.

Before, the sufferer may have been concerned about having white teeth or fresh breath. But when he or she no longer cares about impressing anyone, they start to lose the incentive to maintain their oral health. This disinterest in their own appearance and well-being can cause them to neglect caring for their smile.

Medications used to treat depression are also to blame. Many side-effects of these drugs include conditions that are uncomfortable and harmful to the mouth:

● Dry mouth ● Teeth grinding ● Gum inflammation ● Difficulty swallowing ● Swollen tongue ● Inflamed salivary glands

On top of this, depression itself tends to lower the immune system overall, making a person susceptible to oral infections.

Diet also factors in. Without an interest in maintaining their health, a depressed person may avoid exerting the energy to prepare a healthy meal. This can lead to snacking on convenient comfort foods like breakfast cereals, cookies, chips, and soda.

Such a diet high in simple sugars and acids is a recipe for tooth decay.

Finally, social anxiety or general apathy associated with depression may hold some back from visiting the dentist for regular checkups. If attempting normal daily activities is too stressful, then seeing a dentist may be adding in an obligation the sufferer can’t handle.

He or she may also fear being judged for their condition. Even if they make it to the dental office, they may hold back and not explain that they have depression. However, it’s very important for the dental team to know which medications the individual is taking in order to safely provide treatment.

Fighting the oral effects of depression

Depression hurts. It hurts emotionally and physically and it hurts more than just the one experiencing it.

But depression doesn’t have to permanently destroy a smile.

Dental health is important all of the time, but especially so when you’re sick.

Regular dental checkups can encourage a depression sufferer to look after their dental health. Fluoride treatments and saliva substitutes may help treat unwanted side-effects and lower the risk of disease. X-rays can detect problems early on while they’re easy to treat. Professional dental cleanings will remove buildup that can trigger gum disease.

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, then you need a Tacoma dentist who understands and cares and won’t judge. Contact Dr. Duke Bui to schedule a relaxed, zero-pressure consultation and find out how to take back control of your oral health.

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