Mental health influences oral health

During Mental Health Awareness Month, Delta Dental of Illinois recognizes the importance of mental health

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (May 4, 2022) – More than half of adults in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives.1 Mental health looks different for everyone — there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for each mental health condition. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Delta Dental of Illinois is contributing to the conversation around mental health and how certain conditions can cause a decline in oral health.

There is a clear link between mental health and overall health, as the intense emotions that come with certain mental health conditions can become overwhelming on both mind and body. Those who deal with mood conditions like anxiety or depression may also become more prone to challenges with their teeth and gums. These challenges can include: 2

  • Cracks in their teeth and canker sores because of increased teeth grinding brought on by stress and anxiety
  • Dry mouth and a higher risk of cavities caused by daily medications that may be needed to manage mental health
  • Depletion of essential vitamins and minerals your teeth and body need to stay strong and healthy due to poor nutrition and loss of appetite
  • Increased risk of tooth decay or gum disease as some mental conditions make maintaining a regular oral health routine challenging

“Mental health has always been a top priority, and unfortunately, a lot of individuals’ mental health struggles have been further exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, chief science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. “We recognize how strong of a connection there is between mental and oral health, so we want to make sure people continue to have access to the resources they need and quality dental care.”

Tips for managing both mental health and oral health:

  • Wear a night guard while sleeping to protect teeth against grinding
  • Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day and prevent dry mouth
  • Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco to help lessen the effects of anxiety and depression
  • Tell your dentist about any medications to help determine the correct course of treatment and prepare for potential oral health side effects
  • Call ahead if additional accommodations like lowering the lights, walking through each procedure before starting or ear plugs would be helpful during routine checkups and cleanings
  • Take time to practice self-care, however that looks for you, like eating well, exercising, prioritizing daily hygiene, brushing twice a day, flossing daily and vising the dentist regularly

The average delay between symptom onset of a mental illness and treatment is 11 years.3 Imagine waiting that long to receive treatment for a toothache or cavity — that tooth might be a lost cause by then. Just as regular dental appointments are important, so is checking in on your mental health and having an open dialogue with family, friends and health care providers. Your mental health – and your oral health – matter.

Find additional information on how to take good care of your oral health by visiting

About the Delta Dental of Illinois

Delta Dental is the national dental benefits leader covering 1 in 3 Americans who have dental coverage. Delta Dental of Illinois is one of 39 member companies that make up the national Delta Dental system. Based in Naperville, Illinois, Delta Dental of Illinois provides dental benefit programs to more than 6,500 Illinois companies and covers more than 2 million individuals, employees and family members nationwide. Delta Dental of Illinois is committed to improving oral health in our community and furthers this commitment through the work of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.