How Your Mental Health Could Be Affecting Your Teeth

A possible link to “lock down” anxiety.

It is understandable that there is a rise in the number of mental health issues at the moment. If the worry about our own health and those around us wasn’t enough, the fact that we are largely having to stay indoors with no option to socialise with our friends does not help. Despite this, it is important that government guidelines are followed for the duration of this virus. We should expect that, at times, restrictions may be relaxed whilst at others they may be increased. Without these controls though, the problem is likely to be more severe.

In today’s Mike Allen Dental blog, we are going to take a look at the potential negative effects your mental health can have on your teeth as well as offering some advice for our Burton patients that we hope will help navigate these difficult times.

How does your mental health affect your teeth?

Anyone who has suffered from even relatively mild depression will tell you that one of the first things to go is their own self care. They may wash less often or wear the same clothes for several days. Equally, routine cleaning habits such as brushing our teeth and flossing may either go out of the window altogether or at least be reduced. Over a period of time, this less effective brushing may result in tooth decay and a need for treatment.

Regarding mental health issues, it is, unsurprisingly, anxiety that appears to be most on the rise. Anxiety can lead to us seeking ways to ‘comfort’ ourselves with one of the most common being comfort eating. In virtually all cases, this is likely to involve foods that are bad for us and often full of fat and sugars. These may taste good and make us feel a little better, but overindulging in these will lead our oral health to worsen. Instead of comfort eating, try to find a relaxation technique that works for you. Examples may include yoga or meditation and you can seek guidance from your GP or help groups which are prominent on the web.

Anxiety can also lead to teeth grinding (bruxism) which often happens when we are asleep and can be difficult to control. It can lead to the wearing down of tooth enamel and even cause teeth to fracture in some instances. Again, relaxation techniques may be helpful in preventing this.

Tips for positive mental health

First of all, it is important to stay up to date with the latest advice on the virus. The fact that we can access continually updated information 24 hours a day may also introduce risks however.  By all means, do watch the news or check in online once or twice a day for current guidance, but continually refreshing a feed or obsessing on Twitter may be less than helpful. The virus is certainly dangerous but try to engage in other more pleasurable things as well. Pick up a book and read or close your eyes and listen to music. This should hopefully help you to relax and reduce anxiety levels.

Get some exercise if at all possible. We are encouraged to exercise once a day outside and fresh air can help to lift the mood, especially if it is sunny. Please do keep your distance from other people though and don’t arrange to meet friends.  If the weather is bad, there are numerous keep fit videos on Youtube and Vimeo and you should be able to find one to suit your level of ability.

Avoid foods that are high in sugar as these may lift us for a while but the energy lift is temporary and we may notice a slump afterwards. Some foods that are considered to be good for lifting your mood include bananas, berries, Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, and, for a little indulgence, dark chocolate and coffee.

It is important that we allow ourselves space during this difficult time. There can be a tendency to feel guilty if we don’t use the time productively, perhaps to read that book we always promised ourselves, or to learn a new language. Whilst it is good to have a goal such as this, it is also important that we don’t berate ourselves when we fail to do so. The current “lock-down” is mentally testing and we should expect some ups and downs.

As you will have heard, dental practices are now closed across the country for the time being except for advice about dental emergencies. As with other practices, if you feel that you have a dental emergency, you can continue to call Mike Allen’s Dental Practice on 01283 845345 for further advice.

We hope that all of our patients stay safe and, rest assured, we will open our practice again for general appointments as soon as we are advised to do so.