Mental health has become a much more prevalent topic in today’s society, as people begin to erase the stigma surrounding the conditions and push for treatments and answers. Something that many people fail to realize is that there is actually a strong link between both your oral and mental health.

A study conducted through a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that nearly two-thirds of people with depression also had at least one toothache within the year of their diagnosis. This same study also found that over half of people suffering from depression rated their teeth condition as fair or poor. Conditions like stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness have all been linked to periodontal disease in various studies.

So what does this all mean? The most likely explanation for the link between mental and oral health deals with the effects of stress, depression and anxiety. Often times, people struggling with mental health issues and related conditions lose the drive and ability to complete everyday tasks, like maintaining a daily oral hygiene routine. For example, a person suffering from depression may stop brushing their teeth regularly, miss routine visits to their dentist, and brush oral complications under the rug.

Stress derived from anxiety and depression manifests itself in the body as a hormone called cortisol. If cortisol levels rise too high within your body, your immune system can become weakened. This will leave you vulnerable to many diseases, including mouth conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis.

Medications used to treat anxiety and depression can also have effects on your mouth. Many common pills prescribed for mental health issues can have side effects like dry mouth and canker sores. If the mouth isn’t providing enough saliva to rinse your teeth of food particles, plaque and bacteria, you will be more susceptible to cavities.

Despite the clear link between mental health issues and declining oral health, there are still many ways to keep your mouth as clean as possible. An easy way to maintain good oral health is to brush 2-3 times a day and floss daily. Maintaining basic oral health habits will keep your mouth fresh and your smile in great shape!