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Oral Health and Mental Health: The Surprising Connection


Unfortunately, the effects of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and stress are not discussed as much as they should be and the consequences can be detrimental to your health, causing more issues down the line.


Bruxism / Teeth Grinding

Bruxism is a condition characterized by grinding or clenching of the teeth and is often associated with stress and anxiety. If you wake up with pain in your jaw or a headache, you might be grinding or clenching at night. In more extreme cases you may even notice it in the daytime. Over time, this can cause significant damage to the teeth, including fractures, chips, and wear. In very severe cases, tooth grinding can lead to tooth loss. Some anti depressants have Bruxism as a side effect as well.


Nail Biting

Nail-biting is another habit that is associated with stress and anxiety. Nail-biting can lead to chipped or broken teeth and enamel damage. If your nails are dirty or sharp, it can even lead to cuts and infections in the mouth.


Poor Oral Hygiene

Depression, anxiety, and stress can all make it difficult for individuals to maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine. If you aren’t looking after your teeth, this can lead to a buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth, causing tooth decay and gum disease which can be very painful and cause more stress.


Avoiding the Dentist

Some people who struggle with mental health issues may avoid visiting the dentist due to fear and anxiety about the procedures or due to financial concerns. However putting the dentist off actually leads to more issues down the line including cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.


Treatment Options to Improve Your Oral Health


It’s important to know that it’s never too late to make positive changes to your oral health. Dr. Harriman has many older patients who are only just investing in their oral health for their long term overall health and are beginning their dental rehabilitation.


Bruxism — Dr. Harriman may recommend a night guard that can be worn to protect the teeth from grinding or clenching. This is a pain-free remedy that works great for our patients. Dr Harriman may also consult with your physician about changing some of your medication that can cause Bruxism.


Nail-biting — We can suggest some nail gels to reduce the likelihood of you wanting to bite your nails. We can also share resources for ways to reduce your stress and provide some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation.


Poor Oral Hygiene — Dr. Harriman can work with you to establish a consistent oral hygiene routine that works for you and find great ways to make it more of a priority.


Avoiding the Dentist — For people who are avoiding the dentist due to anxiety, it may be helpful to discuss these concerns with Dr. Harriman and explore options for sedation or other relaxation techniques during the appointment.


It’s important to know that you will never be judged at Karen Harriman, DDS, and our kind, caring, and knowledgeable team will do everything in our power to support your mental health needs or concerns and make your trip to our dental office in Falls Church as comfortable as possible.

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