As the most common mental illness, anxiety is a long-term condition that makes many daily activities more difficult than usual. Even with treatment, anxiety can lead to oral health effects that are directly linked to your emotional and mental state. Combining mental health treatment with visits to the dentist may become necessary to maintain your current oral health.
Preparing yourself for the potential tooth-related side effects of anxiety is a good way to prevent damage to your teeth and gums.
1. Avoiding Dental Treatment
If scheduling a dentist's appointment causes anxious thoughts or gives you a panic attack, you're likely to skip routine cleanings and important procedures. Too many years without a dental cleaning allows plaque to build up around and under the gum line, resulting in the early stages of gum disease.
You may require desensitization therapy and some adjustments with the help of an experienced dentist. You might also switch to sedation dentistry to take a lot of the anxiety out of care, resulting in better oral health for life.
2. Grinding Your Teeth
The anxiety and stress you feel during the day can result in unconscious grinding of your teeth while you sleep. This condition is known as bruxism, and it's linked to many anxiety conditions that increase the overall levels of stress you experience.
Grinding your teeth causes permanent wear and tear on them, such as the weakening and eventual loss of the protective enamel layer. If you're diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or have high stress levels, consider asking your dentist for a mouth guard to prevent tooth grinding damage while you sleep.
3. Reducing Saliva Production
Many people who experience generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks report having a dry mouth during some or most of the day. Saliva protects your gums and remineralizes your teeth. When you're lacking saliva, you'll experience higher rates of tooth decay and other unpleasant side effects like bad breath.
Just drinking more water won't entirely compensate for the lack of saliva production. Address your anxiety symptoms and reduce your resulting stress levels can restore your body's natural production of saliva, protecting your teeth. If you reduce your anxiety and still experience troublesome dry mouth, medications and mouthwashes are available to increase saliva gland output.
4. Experiencing Medication Side Effects
Medication side effects are another common reason for dry mouth that is linked to anxiety. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to many people with anxiety disorders, either as a primary treatment or as a secondary approach to treating a co-diagnosis of depression.
Dry mouth is a side effect of many anti-depressants and some anti-anxiety medications. Switching medication is usually the best choice to prevent long-term tooth decay, especially if you plan to take medication for many months or years. Experiencing chronic dry mouth for too long can result in serious cavities or the need for a root canal.
5. Perpetuating Future Anxiety
Finally, anxiety-induced tooth damage can create more anxiety in the future by creating a cycle of feedback. Research shows that damage to the teeth, such as the loss of a tooth or visible discoloration, can trigger anxiety or worsen an existing condition.
The more anxiety you experience from dental issues, the harder it becomes to seek the treatment you need. Work with your dentist from the beginning to help you keep your smile beautiful and healthy even when you're struggling with an anxiety condition.
Talk with your dentist for more information on how to handle your particular form of anxiety and your specific oral health concerns. Confirm that you're doing everything you can for your teeth by visiting us here at Dr. Bradley Cohn, D.D.S. We'll help you take care of your oral health for life.