Links between seasonal affective disorder and oral health

According to the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, 15% of Canadians experience winter blues and 2 to 6% have seasonal affective disorder. That’s between 800,000 and 2.4 million people with some form of acute depression right now.

The significance of this condition can’t be overstated, nor can the effects it can have on every part of your life and body  including your teeth.

Depression often leads to apathy, which leads to a breakdown of routine. As a result, oral hygiene is neglected, so twice-a-day brushing becomes a few times a week. This can be more of a problem if you’re on medication for your seasonal affective disorder, as some anti-depressants cause xerostomia (dry mouth) leading to increased plaque buildup and an increased risk for cavities.

The stress associated with the depression caused by seasonal affective disorder also increases the level of cortisol circulating through your body. From an oral perspective, this is a double-whammy. On the one hand, cortisol causes bone loss which can impact the bones supporting the oral cavity. It also can change the bacteria ratios in your mouth (what we call the oral flora) to change and possibly increase the risk of developing certain conditions.

And then, of course, there are the bad habits many people adopt during periods of depression – most notably smoking. Besides the obvious risks to your life, smoking is terrible for your teeth, and not just how they look.

Do sufferer from seasonal affective disorder?

If you are, remember two things: You’re not alone; and make an appointment to see your dentist for a cleaning during the winter. A professional polish will go a long way to getting you through your Seasonal Affective Disorder and onto spring. And getting out of the house amongst nice people is a good thing. We smile a lot here, so hopefully some of it rubs off.