Here’s What Anxiety And Panic Attacks Have To Do With Your Oral Health

There are a lot of things in this world that initially don’t seem to match up but apparently has relationships. These things also happen when it comes to health issues. Recently, there have been a few types of research on the connection of one’s anxiety to oral wellness.


What Is Periodontitis?

This type of disease is a serious infection of the gums caused by bacteria which accumulated over time in a person’s mouth. It starts with inflammation of the gums, more commonly known as gingivitis, along with a plaque, which are bacteria stuck on the teeth. 


Afterward, the gums recede and bacteria house in between your gums and teeth, worsening the infection. You can also experience pain and bleeding. All these harmful bacteria thereafter release toxins that can damage bone structures, cause an alteration in taste, and even bad breath.


What Are Anxiety And Depression?

Symptoms of anxiety and depression often overlap. Around 50% of people with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder. People with depression do experience anxious distress on top of their already low mood. People under anxious distress, on the other hand, experience panic attacks. 


During a panic, the body goes into a fight or flight mode wherein the nervous system jumps into action as adrenaline rushes through your bloodstream. The heart beats faster as it strives to pump more blood to sustain the high alert level of the body. And the thing about panic attacks is that all these happen in a matter of seconds.


The Bidirectional Effect Of The Two

According to studies, people who are dealing with serious mental issues are 2.8 times more likely to lose their teeth and have higher chances of having decayed or missing teeth. Here are the reasons which reveal their relationship:



  • Depressed patients show changes in health-related behaviors.


When depression hits a person, they show reduced interest in life in general. In various studies, patients have been seen to neglect some aspects of their health as they resort to forms of diversion such as smoking, alcoholism, and a crash diet. These activities increase the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria when combined with the fact that patients also have tendencies to neglect oral hygiene.



  • Depression weakens a person’s immune system.


 Depression increases not only cortisol, the stress hormone, but also pro-inflammatory cytokines. These are small proteins secreted by the body’s immune system which, instead of fighting bacteria, works to strengthen the disease and enhance inflammation. This is the last thing that the body should do when attacked by bacteria causing periodontitis. 


Because of the pro-inflammatory cytokines, a patient may experience a delay in wound healing, serving as a barrier to any periodontal treatment. 



  • Anti-depressive medication leads to dry mouth.



These medications which help manage depression in turn results to xerostomia. It is a condition wherein changes in a person’s gingival circulation and saliva composition cause dry mouth. If left untreated, dry mouth reduces oral pH, thereby creating a breeding ground for plaque and dental caries. All these have the effect of either triggering or worsening periodontitis.  



  • Periodontitis, in turn, also raises the risks of depression.


The inflammation caused by periodontal diseases heightens the risk of oxidative stress. It occurs when there are not enough antioxidants to combat free radicals. According to studies, this stress process induces depressive moods and behaviors, thereby increasing a person’s vulnerability to depression, anxiety, and even panic attacks. 



  • The shame from periodontal diseases creates anxiety. 


This anxiety comes through a more psychological perspective. The feeling of embarrassment and subsequent isolation and loneliness brought about by poor oral hygiene and halitosis forces people into withdrawing from social interactions. Also, the loss of teeth resulting from periodontitis could cause the alteration in the aesthetics of the face. It diminishes a person’s confidence and self-esteem.


Because of the bidirectional effect of depression and periodontal diseases, it becomes essential to manage the symptoms of both. Oral hygiene should place number one when it comes to protecting the mouth from inflammation and bacteria, while activities geared towards safeguarding mental health comes as a priority to overcome anxiety.