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How Depression (and Other Mental Health Disorders) Harms Your Oral Health

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Depression doesn’t only affect your mental health and personality but also causes very noticeable harm to your physical health. Constant stress, emotional struggle, sleep disturbances, and unhealthy lifestyle related to depression can negatively impact the immune system. This makes the body vulnerable to different kinds of diseases and infections.

Consequences of Self-Harming Behaviors

There are also multiple self-harming and body-focused behavioral patterns that affect physical health. The harm can manifest in the most unexpected ways. In the case of eating disorders, which often occur together with depression, the damage to health can be extensive and affect multiple aspects of our lives.

It’s no secret that what we eat affects our health on so many levels. Teeth and gums are among the first to suffer from poor diet choices. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and motivation often make a person focus on the body and appearance and consider it a cause of all their problems. This is especially relevant for women who grow up with the idea that their appearance defines their value.


In the case of anorexia nervosa (a form of compulsive dieting), a person restricts his or her intake of food to a minimum or even stops eating completely. As a result, the body lacks important nutrients it should receive with food to function properly. When this happens, malnutrition launches a degenerative process in the bones.

Bones, including jaws, are among the most extensive organs of our body. Osteoporosis affects them all and makes the bone tissue in jaws lose their density. This contributes to the loss of teeth.

Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia

Bulimia is similar to a binge eating disorder (BED). In both cases, food is used for comfort. The negative impact of compulsive eating and consuming lots of unhealthy food is common for both. Often there are lots of sweets consumed. This destroys the bacterial balance in the mouth and makes it more vulnerable to bacterial exposure.

Bulimia, unlike BED, also includes compulsive behavior (purging, taking laxatives, or compulsive exercise). Getting rid of the eaten food can cause the same exhaustion as in anorexia. However, constant vomiting is a serious danger for oral health. Constant contact with the aggressive acids of stomach juice damage the dental enamel and change the pH level in the mouth.

The resulting loss of nutrients coming from food affect not only the bones but the gums as well. The signs of gum disease are the first symptoms of a metabolic disorder that takes place in the body.


Bruxism (unintentional and uncontrollable teeth grinding) can also be a depression-related self-harming habit. It usually happens during sleep. Jaws undergo constant pressure and tight contact with each other. This damages the enamel and makes it wear down. Bruxism can be treated with special mouth guards but if there are symptoms of depression as well, the treatment will need to be more comprehensive.


People with depression sometimes drink alcohol or use drugs in search of relief. The harm caused by the aggressive chemicals contained in drugs and alcohol also affects our teeth.

Unexpected Side Effects of Depression Treatment

Recently, there have been findings from scientists about the negative impact antidepressants have on oral health. In particular, they were shown to interfere with the metabolism of the bone tissue. This can become a problem for a person looking to get dental implants.

In addition, some medications cause such a seemingly harmless effect as dry mouth. This also contributes to various dental problems, because the lack of saliva can cause tooth decay. Saliva protects teeth from bacteria and contamination. In the absence of sufficient saliva, the bacteria multiply excessively and destroy teeth over time.

Does it mean you shouldn’t treat your depression with medications? Of course not! But if you were prescribed antidepressants, your dentist should be aware of it. If you need a dental implant, it will be better to start the procedure after the course of antidepressants is complete.

Unfortunately, people who are depressed often don’t bother to care about their oral health. This makes depression-related dental problems continue to get worse. This is why it’s very important not to be afraid of getting help from a trained professional for your mental health issues. When you have depression, both mind and body suffer. Seek help before the damage goes too far.



Author Bio: “I am Monica, journalist and blogger. I think that information is a great force that is able to change people’s lives for the better. That is why I feel a strong intention to share useful and important things about health, self-care, wellness, and other advice that may be helpful for people.”

Photo by Azamat Zhanisov on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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5 thoughts on “How Depression (and Other Mental Health Disorders) Harms Your Oral Health

  1. James Wickersham says:

    Depression can lead to many negative behaviors. Some people resort to the use of alcohol or other substances to self medicate. Often times there is more below the surface of an addiction. Depression can be a root cause of many substance use disorders.

  2. careactive says:

    Thanks for sharing for the informative article. Depression doesn’t only affect your mental health and personality but also causes very noticeable harm to your physical health. It can lead to many negative behaviors. Some people resort to the use of alcohol or other substances to self medicate.

  3. smith patterson says:

    Depression is a common disorder among the elderly; however, it is not a standard element of the ageing process. Depression can affect oral health as a result of neglecting oral hygiene procedures, cariogenic nutrition, avoidance of necessary dental care which leads to an increased risk of dental caries and periodontal disease.

  4. Stephanie McGuire says:

    When depression hits, it really hits hard. Hopefully, more people are aware because no one has to bear the brunt on his own. One should not be too proud of this situation as well.

  5. smith patterson says:

    Suffering with mental illness include: Neglect: Research has shown that those suffering from mental illnesses tend to avoid dental care so much that their oral hygiene is neglected. This can result in gum disease and tooth decay. Anxiety: Many people suffer from some form of dental phobia and as a result, stop seeing their dentist regularly. Infrequent dental visits have a severe impact on oral health. Eating disorders: Those who suffer from conditions such as Bulimia often experience dental erosion from the acidity in vomit. Low levels of calcium are also common, which could affect the health of the teeth. Brushing actions: Over-vigorous brushing actions by those with bipolar as similar disorders could result in them brushing away the enamel on the surface of the tooth. Medication: they are taking may produce adverse oral effects, especially dry mouth, which is as a result of reduced salvia flow.

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