How Oral Health Affects Mental Health

A recent study by the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggests a direct link between individuals with oral health concerns and depression. The study covered those 14 years of age and older with chronic gingivitis, showing that depression is likely to occur after such a diagnosis.

The question is: why does depression tend to affect those with long-term oral health issues? Today, we’ll explore how oral health affects mental health to provide answers in case you are experiencing this for yourself or a family member is going through it.

(If you are facing mental health concerns, we encourage you to please reach out to a professional. If you need help getting your dental care back in order in the process, West Richland Family Dental is here for you.)

How Oral Health Affects Mental Health

The oral health and mental health study we mentioned above featured 6,544 individuals with chronic gingivitis and the same number of individuals without it. (The genders were about 50/50, in case you’re curious.)

Approximately 16.3 percent of the patients with chronic gingivitis were diagnosed with depression within 10 years of the gingivitis onset. Only 8.8 percent of the group that did not have gingivitis were diagnosed with depression in the same 10-year timeframe.

This study is an important one in the oral health industry, suggesting that not taking care of your oral health can negatively impact your mental health. While more research is necessary on the topic of how oral health affects mental health, the initial evidence shows that you may be more likely to experience mental health issues if your dental care is not up to par.

Mental health concerns can make it hard to follow a regular dental hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day, flossing, and using mouthwash. Over time, this can cause problems with your oral health, leading to gum disease and other conditions.

Root Causes of Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety: This is characterized as getting overly nervous or afraid, especially about things that you cannot control. Anxiety is linked with high levels of stress and panic attacks.

Depression: This is characterized as becoming extremely sad to the point where it gets in the way of your day-to-day life and impacts your way of thinking. Depression and dental health issues are often associated with one another, in addition to other symptoms.

There are various potential root causes of anxiety and depression, which include but are not limited to:

  • Genetics: Your risk of a depression or anxiety onset may be increased if it runs in your family.
  • High Stress: Whether this is due to a traumatic experience in your life or a busy period you’re facing now with no time to reset, your mental health could be affected.
  • Chemical Imbalances: When there is an imbalance in your brain at the biochemical level, you may have a higher chance of becoming anxious or depressed.
  • Pre-Existing Medical Issues: Insomnia, ADHD, long-term illnesses, and other chronic conditions may increase your odds of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression may impact your oral health in many ways, particularly due to cortisol (a hormone in the body caused by stress). Increased cortisol weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to gingivitis and other conditions.

Inflammation and the Brain

According to recent research, those who have been diagnosed with depression are 30 percent more likely to have inflammation in the brain. It is suggested that excess inflammation can lead to large depression onset, affecting your mood, appetite, and sleep.

As depression can make you not as excited to do things you normally love or that affect your general health, your dental care could be impacted. If your appetite is down, you may be more likely to turn toward sweet foods and drinks, which can lead to cavities if consumed in excess without maintaining proper brushing habits.

Inflammation and the Mouth

A major sign of periodontal disease (gum disease) is inflammation in your gum area and other parts of the teeth. Over time, this can worsen and lead to periodontitis. Just over 47 percent of adults above age 30 have a type of periodontal disease, and your risk goes up as you age.

Experts have long noticed that those who are depressed or anxious tend to be less likely to upkeep dental health. However, thanks to the new research, we are now seeing that oral health also affects mental health. That makes keeping tabs on your general health vital, including seeing your dentist every six months for a cleaning.

How Inflammation in the Mouth Affects the Brain

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, inflammation in the mouth (including that which applies to periodontitis) can impact the brain and body in many ways. For instance, “Periodontitis has been routinely associated with a multitude of diseases, ranging from inflammatory to infectious, as well as development, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative conditions.”

Relating to the brain, studies have shown that periodontitis can even result in Alzheimer’s disease. The impact on your brain is one of the many reasons why dentists recommend coming in for a visit every six months (so that we may do general cleaning, yes, but also to inspect for oral health conditions, such as gum disease or periodontitis).


It’s been suggested for many years that mental health disorders can impact your oral health by making you afraid to go to the dentist or getting in the way of good dental care habits, such as brushing your teeth and flossing. New research also shows how oral health affects mental health, highlighting why regular dental visits are vital.

Mental health discussions are not always the easiest to have, but simple awareness can do wonders in helping us understand why we are facing things that we are. We will do our part to provide great dental care, and we hope that whatever you might be facing, things will get better for you soon.

If anxiety or depression are keeping you from visiting the dentist, West Richland Family Dental offers sedation dentistry to help alleviate the stress of going to the dentist. Sedation dentistry places you in a deep relaxation state, allowing you to get the dental care you need in a stress-free way.

Are you due for your biannual cleaning and looking for a dentist in the area? West Richland Family Dental is dedicated to creating a comfortable environment for all ages, allowing you to get the quality dental services you deserve. Book your appointment today with one of the top dentists in the Tri-Cities area.

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