About anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorders in the United States, affecting about 50 million people each year.1 Signs and symptoms are not always obvious or reported, so the actual number of people coping with these conditions is likely much higher.
Anxiety often results from a fear of real or imagined danger or feelings of uncertainty.2 Symptoms may include restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, and acid reflux. While it is a different condition than depression, anxiety often presents itself in many people with depression.
General characteristics of depression include feelings of sadness, emptiness, reduced motivation, loss of focus, irritability, stress, changes in lifestyle choices, and an increase in high-risk behaviors.
Anxiety and depression have been shown to often accompany other medical conditions such as
, and heart disease, especially in middle-aged and
. They can worsen the symptoms and progression of these conditions.
Anxiety, depression, and your oral health
Anxiety and depression can affect your oral health in a variety of ways. Understanding these connections can help you take the steps necessary to ensure you maintain good oral health while working to manage your depression.
- Behavioral changes: Anxiety and depression can cause some people to lack interest in caring for themselves. Less effective oral care at home, fewer dental visits, poor diet, and an increase in unhealthy behaviors are typical. Neglecting your oral health and postponing regular dental visits dramatically increases your risk of developing mouth pain,
(periodontitis), and missing teeth. These problems can worsen anxiety and depression by impacting your smile, ability to chew and speak properly, and nutritional habits. The effects may also cause you to limit social interactions.3 In some people, anxiety and depression can result in subconscious grinding and clenching (bruxism), often while sleeping. Bruxism can lead to chipped or worn teeth and failing dental restorations like
- Physiological changes: Anxiety and stress cause an increase in the hormone cortisol, which normally regulates inflammation. When cortisol levels are increased for extended periods, it can increase inflammation throughout the body, including the soft tissues of the mouth, and accelerate the progression of periodontal disease. Maintaining normal cortisol levels can reduce gum inflammation and improve periodontal treatment outcomes.4
- Risk for depression: Interestingly, research has begun to reveal that inflammation caused by prolonged gum disease can increase inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation has been associated with an increased risk of mental illness.5
: Medication can help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. Most antidepressants and antianxiety medications have side effects, which may vary or be aggravated if you take multiple medications at the same time.6 You should talk to your primary care physician or psychiatrist about medications they recommend and ask how to address potential side effects. Common oral side-effects of antidepressants and antianxiety medications include:
(xerostomia): Many antidepressant and antianxiety medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Reduced saliva can lead to other issues such as tooth decay,
(halitosis), and trouble speaking. These issues may cause further depression and anxiety, especially in social settings.7
Grinding or clenching
(bruxism): Some medications for anxiety and depression list bruxism as a possible side effect.
- Jaw disorders (TMJ): Some anxiety medications can aggravate
(temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMD) symptoms by causing you to overuse your jaw muscles. This often occurs as an after-effect of bruxism. Even if you do not see signs of bruxism, you may still notice other TMJ disorder symptoms such as
(temporomandibular joint or TMJ) pain, popping and clicking of your jaw, jaw muscle aches or pain, or trouble easily opening and closing your mouth.8
- Hypersalivation: While less common than dry mouth, some psychoactive drugs used to treat depression or anxiety may cause your salivary glands to become over-stimulated. Producing too much saliva is not harmful but can lead to excessive drooling and spitting.9