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Your Healthy Family: Link between oral and mental health

Posted at 6:34 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 08:38:25-04

Brushing and flossing your teeth helps keep up your oral health. But did you know there’s a link between your oral health and mental health?

Dr. Susan Albers, a Psychologist with Cleveland Clinic, said your mental health impacts your overall health.

"Including your oral health or the health of your teeth and your gums. Dentists are sometimes the first professional to identify and diagnose a mental health issue, and they make a lot of referrals to counselors and therapists," she said.

Dr. Albers said your teeth can give clues about your stress level, anxiety, mood and the presence of chronic eating problems. For example, if you struggle with stress or anxiety, you may have worn enamel from grinding your teeth at night or clenching your jaw. She said people who have eating disorders often have high levels of tooth decay, worn enamel, and difficulties with their gums because of malnutrition, or overeating highly processed foods. People who are depressed may not have the motivation or energy to take care of their teeth.

“If you are struggling with your oral hygiene, check in with yourself and ask is there a mental health issue that may be standing in the way, and if so, this may be important to acknowledge and bring up with your therapist. The two of you together, and with your dentist, can make sure that it does not stand in the way of either your mood or your oral health," she said.

Dr. Albers said eating healthier foods can not only help with your oral health, but also your mental health.