Mind Matters in Oral Health

The mental health of the nation has been given more attention recently especially with some high profile celebrities coming out to say they have suffered too. But what impact can ones mental health have on oral health?

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It was the French philosopher René Descartes who formalised the notion of a separate body and mind. However, there is little doubt that this outdated notion does not hold up in clinical practice. The tight correlation between neuro-chemistry and subjective well-being is well known as the plethora of pharmaceuticals available for sufferers of conditions such as chronic anxiety, psychosis and depression are well aware.

As we know, drugs have side-effects and people who are on long-term drug treatment for conditions such as depression need to know that one of those side-effects is a dry mouth.

This impacts on oral health because a reduction in the secretion of saliva increases the likelihood of dental caries as well as eventual gum and bone recession leading to tooth loss.

The reason for this is because saliva protects the mouth and has powerful antiseptic qualities which controls the development of plaque bio-film in the mouth. In addition it constantly cleans up particles of food that would otherwise stick to the teeth, in particular between teeth, where it is difficult for the tongue to enter.

Patients and dentists can both play an active part in looking out for increased risks. For patients it means being aware of possible side-effects of the drugs you are taking and for dentists to ensure regular updates to medical histories.

For those who are in a higher risk category using a high fluoride toothpaste can help, as well as scheduling regular checkups and trips to the hygienists for maintenance and monitoring purposes.

For patients and practitioners alike it is just as well to keep this in mind.


Blister pack of Prozac (fluoxetine), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor... CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=515626