“Brush your teeth twice a day and floss”, this is the advice given to every patient to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Sounds simple right? On a good day it is, but on other days, days that are filled with anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles, the idea of brushing and flossing can seem impossible. During these times, there are other, more gentle ways to keep your teeth clean. The most important thing to remember? You’re not alone.
Anxiety and depression affect about 40 million Americans a year . Even though it’s treatable, only about 36% receive treatment, meaning many are battling it alone. These rates significantly spiked during COVID and have had a lasting impact on the mental health of a large portion of the population. Clinical depression has effects other than feeling sad or a loss of energy. It directly impacts one’s decision-making skills and their executive functioning (the ability to take all the steps to get something done) . This can make a seemingly simple task like brushing teeth or flossing seem like too much work. “What kind of toothpaste? Electric or manual toothbrush? Floss or floss pik… never mind. I don’t care anymore.” Many can feel terrible or lazy about not having the motivation to brush their teeth but it is not laziness, it’s the chemical imbalance in their brain working against them, depleting everything they have.
If you’re someone who struggles with depression or anxiety (the hygienist writing this article does), there are other simple ways to stay on top of your oral care that don’t require too much effort. These things may seem small, but they go a long way in keeping you healthy. Don’t underestimate the power of small efforts! The first is to drink lots of water. This cleanses the teeth and flushes out any bacteria that may be trapped between the teeth. It also helps increase salivary flow which will keep the pH of the oral cavity balanced, preventing cavities. Another is to eat crunchy foods like apples or carrots. The mechanical action of crunching on these foods cleans the chewing surfaces of the teeth (areas especially susceptible to decay) and removes plaque. Lastly, take a multivitamin and an oral probiotic . If you’re only craving sugar, or salty comfort foods when you’re experiencing a bout of depression, taking a multivitamin will ensure your body is still nourished with the vitamins and minerals it needs. An oral probiotic will keep your oral microbiome balanced, which in turn will strengthen your immune system and lessen your susceptibility to cavities and inflammation. Depression and anxiety can make everything seem exhausting, even brushing your teeth. When experiencing a low period, drink some water, take some vitamins, be extra gentle with yourself, and know that you’re doing more than enough. You got this!