Protecting mental health can help oral health as cracked teeth due to stress on the rise during COVID-19

Posted on November 4, 2020 in General oral health

Young African American woman inside by a couch, relaxing and smilingIf you feel worry, fear or anxiety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. These overwhelming emotions can impact everything from sleeping and eating habits to having consequences for your oral health.

For example, according to a recent article, the American Dental Association recently released a survey about dentists and endodontists seeing an increase in patients with cracked teeth, with a direct tie to these injuries coming from stress and anxiety during the current pandemic. From this survey, dentists have noted a 59.4% increase in teeth grinding and a 53.4% increase in chipped and cracked teeth.

With these and other dental injuries on the rise from stress, now is the time to raise awareness about mental health issues, provide support and remove the stigma surrounding mental health. The timing is more important than ever.    

One in 5 people generally experience a mental health concern during their lifetime.1 But during this pandemic, nearly half of U.S. adults said worry and stress is having a negative impact on their mental health.2 And many are experiencing some degree of anxiety, isolation and loneliness.

Research shows a strong link between mental and oral health. Stress and anxiety produce cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. Increased levels of this hormone can make your body more vulnerable to inflammation of the gum tissues and gum disease.

Depression can have an even greater effect on your oral health. Almost two-thirds of people with depression reported having a toothache in the last year, higher than the overall population, according to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.3 Half of the people with depression rated the condition of their teeth as fair or poor.

Fortunately, free resources are available including a new text hotline, Call4Calm, from Illinois Department of Human Services. Those experiencing stress and mental health issues can be connected to a counselor by texting TALK to 552020; for Spanish, text HABLAR to the same number.

You can also protect your mental, oral and overall health by:

  • Maintaining self-care and personal hygiene. This includes getting enough sleep, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. It’s also important to visit the dentist regularly for checkups to help detect and treat oral health issues early before they become more serious.
  • Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, rather than starchy snacks and comfort foods, which can leave sugar on your teeth and increase your risk for cavities.
  • Avoiding tobacco and excessive use of alcohol and marijuana, which can have a negative impact on both your oral and overall health.
  • Exercising regularly to help keep anxiety and depression at bay. If you’re able to get outside, sunshine can also help boost your mood. Just don’t forget sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30. 
  • Practicing gratitude and finding ways to keep smiling, which can reduce stress. Try connecting with others by phone or video chat.

It is natural to feel stressed or anxious during this challenging time. Trying to protect your mental health will always help protect your healthy smile.

1 Mental Health America

2 Kaiser Family Foundation poll

3 The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention