On topic with Dr. Kohn: Seasonal depression and your oral health

Many people get depressed or anxious in the colder, darker months. If you suffer from the "winter blues," you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Scientists think these feelings may be triggered by our bodies’ responses to less sunlight. People with conditions such as depression or anxiety are subject to a greater number of risk factors for oral disease than those who don’t have them, but there are steps you can take to lessen the effects of SAD and maintain good oral health during the cold, dark winter months:

• Stay active. Regular exercise has been proven to be effective against depression.

• Experience as much daylight as you can. Exposure to natural light will help boost your mood.

• Eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Winter blues can make you crave sugar and carbohydrates such as chocolate, breads and starchy comfort foods that are bad for your dental health.

• Be conscientious about your oral health by brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and flossing once daily. You're more likely to neglect brushing and flossing when you're feeling depressed.

It’s normal to have some down days, but if these feelings continue for days at a time and you can't seem to find your usual level of energy or enjoyment in life, talk with your physician.

Meet Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental’s Vice President of Dental Science and Policy. Formerly the director of the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Kohn has timely tips and valuable insights to share as our resident dental expert.