Depression is a complex mental health condition that impacts nearly every aspect of your life, from your mood and ability to connect with others to your physical health. But did you know that depression can also affect your oral health?
Oral Health and Depression
If you have depression, it’s common to experience anxiety symptoms during times of stress. Not only can this lead to an increased heart rate, racing thoughts, and insomnia, it also raises your cortisol levels.
Often called the stress hormone, cortisol helps regulate your metabolism and immune response. When you’re depressed and anxious, cortisol can flood your system, lowering your body’s immunity to infections like gum disease and tooth infections.
If you’re struggling to maintain good oral health habits because of lack of motivation, constant fatigue or “brain fog”, your risk of developing these infections can increase.
Seeking help for depressive disorders, such as clinical depression and bipolar depression, can significantly improve the symptoms of depression. However, many of the medications that your doctor prescribes to manage the signs of depression can cause dry mouth.
Your saliva naturally helps remove plaque, bacteria, and unwanted debris from your teeth. When you have dry mouth, your saliva can’t do its job, increasing your risk of tooth decay and cavities.
How to Care for Your Oral Health
There are many ways to care for your oral health now if you struggle with depression, such as:
Seek mental health counseling.
The first step in managing depression that lasts for more than a few weeks is to seek counseling. A professional mental health counselor can help you cope with your symptoms and set small, achievable goals that will strengthen your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Tell your dentist.
Your dentist knows how challenging it is to care for your teeth and gums when you have depression. They can give helpful advice on the best ways to preserve your oral health during depressive bouts.
Take small steps.
The best way to take care of your teeth and gums is to brush and floss twice a day, use a mouth rinse, and visit your dentist twice a year for regular teeth cleanings. But if a full oral health routine seems too daunting right now, take small steps. Try to brush your teeth twice a day and work your way up from there.
Make healthy choices.
Poor eating habits are common when you have depression. It’s much easier to reach in the cabinet for junk food than it is to cook a healthy meal. But adding healthy fruits and vegetables to your diet, such as leafy greens, apples, and fish, strengthens and protects your teeth and gums.
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