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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

How Mental Health Can Be Affected by Oral Health

Oct 31, 2022 09:31AM ● By David Lerner
The health of our mouth can greatly impact how we feel overall, as well as affect our appearance. Research and clinical experience show there is a direct link between our dental health and overall health. But what about when it comes to our mental well-being? Is there a connection between our oral health and mental health? Yes, there is.

Dental conditions can be a major source of stress that affect the health of our brain. The mouth can be a cause of poor sleep, resulting in not enough oxygen to our brain (sleep apnea), as well as the source of stimulation of our nervous system, keeping us from getting enough deep sleep. When sleep deprived, our mental health is compromised. If our bite and airway are not right, it will affect our throat at night, causing it to become narrower. This is called a constricted airway and can interfere with our brain’s ability to get enough oxygen. This is known to cause hypertension, stroke, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the muscle tissue of the heart), heart failure, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks.

Many people experience muscle tension and pain at night because their teeth don’t fit properly; some will grind their teeth at night, wearing down their bite, making the situation even worse. When chronic, these conditions can lead to debilitating fatigue and depression.

Through dental sleep appliances, orthodontics and restoring our teeth, we can correct our bite, which will open up our airway and, therefore, improve sleep. As a result, many of our patients experience an overall improved quality of life. By restoring muscular balance to the head and neck and eliminating tension in the chest, I have seen patients relieved of chronic depression caused by their body’s energy being blocked.

As with our general health, hygiene and nutrition also will greatly impact our dental and mental health.

We now know that when gum disease is present, the bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream, causing disease in the brain, contributing to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This can be exacerbated by the promotion of inflammation in the body, just as autoimmune conditions are. There are other dental conditions that can contribute to this.

Infected teeth, even many of those that might have been treated with root canal therapy can be a contributor to disease forming elsewhere in the body, including the brain. The presence of persistent dental infections and the toxins that accumulate within the tooth will render a dead tooth into a foreign body.

Toxic materials like mercury can be introduced into the body in silver dental fillings, and after leaking out, be absorbed by the brain, affecting how it functions. Research has identified the mercury in silver fillings as a contributor to Alzheimer’s. Our practice has been mercury-free since 1983. We recommend that our patients have all silver fillings removed safely, using a special protocol to minimize exposure to toxic mercury vapors for both the patient and the clinical team—and to not get new silver fillings!

David Lerner, DDS, is owner of The Center for Holistic Dentistry, located at 2649 Strang Blvd., Ste. 201, Yorktown Heights, NY. For more information, call 914.214.9678, email [email protected] or visit