fitting family dental visits into a crazy schedule

How Your Depression Could Be "All In Your Head": The Link Between Your Oral Cavity And Your Mental State

by Andre Daniels

If you've suffered from depression for a while, you know that it is not only a debilitating disorder, but that its treatments can be incredibly elusive. Since depression can stem from so many sources (e.g. hereditary proclivities, hormone imbalances, dietary choices, etc.), it's in your best interest to learn as much as you can about different influencing factors. While you may have been focusing on diet and exercise, did you know that focusing on your dental health could be a major key in managing your depression? Read on to see how dental hygiene can affect your mental state.

How Inflammation Influences Depression says that one big buzzword in the medical community right now is "inflammation," since it is linked to a wide array of illnesses. While doctors have looked at inflammation as a symptom for larger issues in the past, says that doctors are now realizing that they need to be treating it as a root problem. While normal inflammation is a healthy response of white blood cells towards damaged tissues, prolonged inflammation is dangerous. White blood cells produce a protein called cytokine, which communicates to other cells that they should fight off infection; however, if these cytokines release virus- and bacteria-killing chemicals for too long, they can get into your bloodstream and start inflaming areas in your body that don't need this response, like your brain. And if your brain is suffering from inflammation, it could certainly be affecting your depressive states.

So how does this relate to dental hygiene? Ever hear of gingivitis? While you may know that gingivitis is a precursor to more serious issues--like periodontal disease and tooth loss--keep in mind that gingivitis by itself is a serious prolonged inflammatory disease. And since gingivitis can cause gums to bleed easily, bacteria can get into your bloodstream, and again, incite cytokines to go where they maybe shouldn't be going.

So if you notice that your gums bleed easily, are swollen and tender, or are receding, you should talk with your dentist ASAP. While many people have their brushing routine down, don't forget to floss every day, since that is incredibly vital to prevent gingivitis.

Are There Any Studies To Back Up The Links Among Oral Health, Inflammation, and Depression?

The short answer is yes. Researchers at Deakin University not only found a link between depression and poor dental health, but they found that participants who had more than one dental issue had a greater severity in their depression. This research group said that the link between poor oral health and depression was still there even when they had accounted for other factors, like an increase in inflammation. However, keep in mind that while these researchers were seeing connections between dental issues and depression, their data still hadn't pinned down why they were seeing those correlations. 

While the Deakin study seemed to propose that dental issues could increase depression or even cause it, an article at proposed that dental issues were less of a cause and more of a symptom for those suffering from depression. The article said that the people they surveyed were more likely to abuse drugs and smoke--both of which are lifestyle choices that could not only cause serious dental issues, but could be side effects and coping mechanisms of depression.

For more information, contact Port Orchard Dental Care Center or a similar location.