Have Bipolar? Please Go to the Dentist!

Last Updated: 3 Mar 2020

Whether depression has made it hard to brush your teeth, your meds cause dry mouth, or you clench and grind from stress, bipolar disorder can do a number on your teeth! Here’s how to start caring for those pearly whites.

A dentist and a patient create a heart shape with their joined hands. Centered in the heart is the patient's smile.

I am so looking forward to my eighth root canal. That is not a typo. Having bipolar disorder and taking medications off and on throughout my life for the disorder has greatly affected my teeth. 

I have excellent dental hygiene. In fact, I brush too much and have been told to lay off the brushing. I floss. I am careful. 

My teeth look normal, but they are not. Internally, they are weak and cracking. This is due to my bipolar disorder as well as meds, and I want to prevent this from happening to any of you or your loved ones who have bipolar. 

Here’s how bipolar affects the teeth and what you can do about it. 

#1 Dry Mouth

Dry mouth from medications. When I was told I had a huge cavity at age 55, I asked the dental technician how that was even possible. She said, “Oh, dry mouth can cause a lot of cavities!” I could explain about saliva and special bacteria and all of that, but to keep this simple, here’s my advice: just keep your mouth hydrated by touching your tongue to the top of your mouth and running it over your palate. This creates saliva. (It’s also relaxing for the jaw!) Use a hydrating mouthwash that is made specifically for dry mouth. If you wake up at night to go to the bathroom, use it then, too. 

#2 Clenching

Get a mouth guard! Oh, how I wish I had simply purchased a new one when I lost my last one! After dry mouth, teeth clenching when we are not well and grinding our teeth during really tough mood swings can crack our teeth. 

#3 No Ice!

No chewing ice. People with bipolar who have used meds simply can’t risk chewing ice. The extreme desire to chew ice might be an indicator of an iron deficiency. If this is currently a problem, check with your doctor, look into an iron supplement, and eat more kale and spinach! 

#4 Brushing

If you are depressed and actually haven’t been brushing your teeth, read my book Getting Things Done When You’re Depressed and make brushing your teeth a goal. A simple goal. You don’t have to get out of the depression before taking an action. We can talk ourselves into doing seemingly small, but really hard stuff when we are sick. A quick brush. We can do this! If you can manage a floss, too, you are really rockin!

#5 Making an Appointment

Go to the dentist. Even if you haven’t been in years and years, it is NEVER too late. I’ve had a lot of physical problems in my life since a biking accident, and I can honestly say I skipped going to the dentist for a year. The result is a root canal. If I had gone to the dentist last year, I could have prevented this. 

It’s HARD to take care of your teeth when you have bipolar. Choose one thing on this list and do it. We can do it! 

Arg! A Root Canal! 


About the author
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.

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