MDA dentists sink their teeth into an issue that matters – we’re talking about mental health. From stress and anxiety to depression and insomnia, the state of your mental health can affect your oral and overall health. It also can impact how you feel about receiving dental care.
The Invisible Bags We All Carry
The day-to-day challenges we face can get in the way of reaching our optimal wellness. MDA dentist Dr. Mayberry shares what it means as a dental care provider to understand and give space to the difficult experiences we all go through.
These days, so many of us, patients and dentists alike, carry more than we let on. But if we can’t see it, how do we know what you’re going through? By asking. By showing up for each other.
Mental health is on everyone’s mind. Talking about it is a good thing! As MDA dentist Dr. Singh emphasizes, mental health challenges are not a stigma. They are a part of life.
It’s important that we all feel safe to share these issues, especially with our healthcare providers. That includes dentists too!
For many, anxiety and fear over not being seen and accepted for who they are and what they are going through can make showing up for an appointment challenging. Being there for each other and offering exceptional care involves affirming identity, embracing people as they are, and trusting in their experience.
As Dr. Shrikian shares, affirming a patient’s identity and carefully listening to their experiences is a way to show care and build trust during a dental visit. Trust and understanding help dental care advice, treatment choices, and recommendations have a bigger impact. It can be the difference between someone feeling at ease getting dental care or delaying treatment and compromising their oral and overall health.
Facing Dental Care Anxiety Together
Dental care anxiety is real — MDA dentists help patients get through it every day. Many people are afraid of the dentist, get anxious when they think about going to the dentist, or even delay necessary treatment. But dental care anxiety doesn’t have to prevent you from getting the care you need. There’s a way through it, and that way is together.
MDA dentists Dr. Singh, Dr. Edwards, Dr. Manautou, and Dr. Patel share that open communication between patient and dentist helps make every visit as positive as possible. It’s why we ask new patients, “are you afraid of the dentist?” and why we check in with patients so often during an appointment. Whenever we ask, “are you okay?” or “do you need a break?” we mean it. If there’s something that would make you even a little bit more comfortable, tell us. Providing the best possible experience, keeping you comfortable, listening to your needs, and respecting your concerns all help make each visit easier.
Mental Health’s Dental Impact
MDA dentists understand that mental health problems and behavioral changes can impact other areas of our lives, including oral health. They see this firsthand – and more often than people might think.
MDA dentists Dr. Benivegna, Dr. Edwards, and Dr. Patel share that they’re treating more and more stress-related oral health conditions. A 2021 American Dental Association survey found 70% of dentists reported an increase in patients grinding and clenching their teeth post-pandemic1.
When Stress Bites Back
Stress and anxiety can physically manifest in ways that impact oral health, like teeth/jaw clenching and grinding (bruxism). Bruxism can contribute to jaw pain, TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), and headaches. It can also cause wear and tear on teeth, leading to cracked and damaged teeth and gum problems. Often this unconscious behavior happens during sleep and may go unnoticed until symptoms like jaw pain or damaged teeth arise2.
Easing the Grind
Your MDA dentist can work with you to help alleviate the painful symptoms associated with stress-related grinding and clenching. They can recommend appropriate preventive measures, such as night guards for bruxism, and aid in identifying the origins of the issue. This could involve coordinating with your primary care physician, suggesting stress management techniques, and even recommending a sleep study to determine the cause of bruxism.
Dentists Open Up About Opening Up
MDA dentists share that when we ask, “how are you feeling?” we want to know your honest answer. Not to judge but to help.
When we know what you’re facing, we can provide you with the best care for your unique needs. That may mean taking extra steps to keep you more comfortable at your visit or working together to solve a stress-related issue like grinding your teeth.
At your next visit, open up. Let us know how you feel, and let us be there for you.
Find an MDA Dentist Near You
Don’t have a dentist? Use our Find-a-Dentist tool to find an MDA dentist in your area. Talk to your dentist and their dental care team about your mental health at your appointment. They’re here to ensure you get the care you need!
- American Dental Association (ADA) Media Relations. New survey finds stress-related dental conditions continue to increase. ADA. March 02, 2021. Accessed online: https://www.ada.org/en/about/press-releases/2021-archives/new-survey-finds-stress-related-dental-conditions-continue-to-increase
- Mark, Anita M. JADA for the Patient: Your teeth and jaws under pressure. J Am Dent Assoc. 201;149(2):166. Accessed online: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2017.11.027