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The Berns Report | Quarter No. 2, 2024

The Link between Your Mental Health and Your Oral Health

In honor of May being mental health awareness month, I thought I would share some research on a few of the many links between mental health and dental health.  Of course these connections are not meant to diagnose any mental condition or suggest treatment, but merely to bring them into the light.

To start, let’s explore some of the ways in which a mental condition or disorder can take a toll on the mouth.  For those patients dealing with added stress- from a diagnosed mental condition or from daily stressors- tooth grinding (bruxism) is more common.  In addition, there are many medications used in psychiatry that lead to dry mouth (xerostomia).  Two examples are Tricyclic Antidepressants which can cause a 58% drop in saliva production and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) which can cause a 32% drop.1  Since saliva serves the important role of rinsing away the bad bacteria that cause cavities (dental caries) and gum and bone disease (gingivitis/periodontitis), this drop can have some negative consequences within a short to medium timeframe.  In fact, those with a mental disorder are nearly twice as likely to have gum disease.2  

Next let’s look at some ways that oral conditions can affect mental health.  Missing teeth can have a negative impact on mental health by contributing to lowered chewing ability and proper nutrition.  Missing or poorly positioned teeth as well as other oral conditions such as tongue-ties can cause difficulties with speech, which affect peoples’ view of themselves.  Then there is the issue of how the health of the teeth affects a major contributor to appearance- the smile.  People with crooked, discolored, or missing teeth in their smile can be less likely to smile or laugh which can negatively impact daily social interactions.  It can also contribute to lower self-esteem.  Besides these concerns, there is also a link between gum and bone disease in the mouth to many systemic issues, such as increased plaque formation in the brain- the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.3

Then there are issues that fall into both mental and dental health.  One that we encounter frequently is varying levels of dental anxiety.  This “fear of the dentist” is often attributed to bad experiences with a previous dental visit, but it can be just one symptom of a larger mental health concern.  No matter the source, dental anxiety can have negative effects on mental health when patients end up dreading a dental appointment and definite negative effects on oral health as important dental treatment is delayed or hygiene visits are postponed.  

In summary, the links between oral health and mental health are complex, interconnected, and often require a team approach for understanding and treatment.  There is no substitute for working with a dedicated mental health professional, but for our part, we are committed to making every patient’s visit as low-key and comfortable as possible and keeping every smile healthy and bright. 

Works cited: 

  1. Hudson, J. How mental health affects oral health. BDJ Student 28, 21–23 (2021). 

  2.  Study examines the link between mental health and oral health.  Neuroscience News. (March 18, 2023).

  3. How dental health and mental health are connected.  American Psychiatric Association. (September 19, 2023).

Now offering a new electric toothbrush

For the past several years, we have been selling the same electric toothbrush that I personally use, the Oral B Genius.  We have just received word from our Oral B rep that they will be phasing out that particular model within the next several months.  The good news is that they are replacing it with what appears to be a nice upgrade: the Oral B iO electric toothbrush.  The iO still has an oscillating, round head, which is dentist and hygienist-approved to best adapt to the contours of your teeth and it still moves fast enough to remove twice as much plaque as manual brushing.  The major update is in the internal technology- using a magnetic drive rather than a gear drive allowing for a much quieter brushing experience with less vibration.  It still helps you track your brushing time by pulsing every 30 seconds and even gives you a smiley face when you brush the full 2 minutes. If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend looking into an electric for your oral health routine.  Get more information at your next visit, or stop in anytime to see the Oral B iO for yourself.  It currently comes with a $10 rebate. 

The Berns’s Blackout While Camping

6 months ago I could be found refreshing the Indiana State Parks camping reservation webpage like I was trying to buy playoff tickets the minute they went on sale.  Through that advanced planning, I was able to reserve a site for 3 nights of camping with my family in order to take in the solar eclipse right in the middle of the path of totality at Brown County State Park in Nashville, IN.   


I made my family endure some 30 degree nights in a tent (with a space heater and some warm sleeping bags!), a warmer night of storms, and having an anxious dad (me checking the forecast for eclipse day almost hourly for weeks before) in order to view this once in a lifetime celestial event.  

As predicted, the moon dutifully made its way into the path of the sun in the perfectly clear sky, allowing for 4 incredible minutes of totality.  Highlights were the dusk-like darkness, the 360 degree sunset colors around the horizon, the 10° drop in temperature, and getting to share the whole thing with my family.  Thank you to my Crossroads team and patients for allowing me the time away to experience this amazing day!

No Dental Benefits?  No problem!

Over the past several years, hundreds of patients have taken advantage of Crossroads Family Dental’s Smile Care Club.  We are proud to offer this in-office membership program geared towards those patients who find themselves without a traditional dental benefit plan through an employer or other provider.  We have helped college graduates aging out of their parents’ benefits, recent retirees, and many others without dental coverage.

Here’s how it works:

• Pay a monthly fee that covers all preventative work at our office.

• Receive a discount on all other dental work (up to a $500 discount per procedure)

• Unlike traditional plans, our program has no annual maximum, no waiting period, and no deductibles. 

Call Justine or Angie at 219-865-4095 or scan the QR code below (by pointing your phone camera at it) for more information or to sign up.  Please feel free to share information about Smile Care Club with your friends and family.  We always appreciate referrals and your continued support of our office!  


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