Is There a Connection Between Poor Dental Health and Depression?

If you’ve ever had chronic dental problems, such as cavities or gum infections, you know that it can affect your mood. Tooth pain can certainly make anyone feel sad or depressed. That’s why we recommend regular check-ups and a daily regime of preventive care.


The connection between depression and poor dental health goes both ways.

Studies have also shown that depression as well as other mental health conditions can actually have a negative impact and be the cause of poor oral health. Adults with depression are less likely to take care of their teeth and avail themselves of oral health care services. Thus, they are more apt to lose their teeth than healthy adults who do not suffer from any mental illness. This conclusion was found to be true across the board, regardless of other factors such as age, sex, race or ethnicity.

In addition, it was shown that the longer period of time that adults suffer from depression or anxiety, the worse the condition of their teeth becomes. This was measured in the number of teeth lost, which increased with the number of years the patients had been suffering from their particular mental illness.

The path from depression to tooth loss is a very predictable one. First of all, feeling sad can be very distracting and can even affect something as seemingly trivial as personal hygiene. People who are depressed may lack the motivation to brush their teeth or floss. They may even stop eating or drinking,causing dehydration, insufficient saliva, dry mouth or even bad breath. Lack of proper sustenance can also interfere with the body’s ability to regulate glucose production, resulting in an onset or increase of diabetic symptoms.

When someone stops brushing their teeth, bacteria can begin to flourish. This of course allows the formation of cavities and gum disease. When left unchecked, these will ultimately lead to the loss of a tooth, when it becomes too infected to survive. As this condition can be painful and debilitating, it can lead to a deepening of depression. It is easy to see how a continuous downward spiral can begin to develop.

Other Important Facts About Depression

Depression is twice as common in women as it is in men. It is typically diagnosed when patients are in their early 30’s, but can come on at any time if a person’s life. Overall symptoms may include sleep disturbances, general lethargy, significant weight or appetite changes, an inability to concentrate or make decisions, decreased ability to find pleasure in life, lessening of physical activity, and/or obsessive thoughts about death

Severe depression can be completely disabling, as it interferes with nearly every facet of a person’s life. Although prolonged episodes may only happen once in a lifetime, some people suffer from recurring, major bouts of depression that can last up to two years or longer. Episodes of severe depression that can suddenly shift into radically different moods can be a characteristic of bipolar disorder, a more serious and difficult to treat condition.

Depression and all of its related conditions often require medication and should be treated by professionals. In addition to a lack of proper self-care, patients with depression are more prone to engaging in other sorts of high risk behaviour that can negatively impact their overall health and safety. Poor attention to dental care is a red flag, and may be a sign that there is a deeper emotional problem that needs to be treated.