Both mental health and oral health have big impacts on our bodies and overall well-being, but is there any correlation between the two?
Can your oral health impact your mental health and vice versa?
How Oral Health Impacts Mental Health?
There seems to be two main ways that your oral health can impact your mental health, though more research is needed on the topic.
Fear of Dentists
If someone suffers from anxiety and/or phobias, especially those related to the dentist, medical offices, injections or fear of pain, chances are this fear will result in avoidance of the dentist.
Avoiding the dentist has obvious consequences such as poor gum health, tooth decay, cavities, and infection or disease.
The best-case scenario in this case is to find a compassionate dentist that you can talk to and discuss your fears and concerns and create a plan that helps ease your anxiety surrounding your regular dental check-ups.
Impact on Self-Esteem & Social Anxiety
Perhaps the biggest impact of oral health on mental health involves self-esteem and social anxiety.
If circumstances have made it difficult to maintain proper dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups, the resulting condition of the teeth and smile can bring about feelings of shame or embarrassment in some.
This lack of self-esteem surrounding their teeth and smile can result in social anxiety, fear of smiling or talking in public among other things and can be incredibly damaging to the mental health of the individual.
If possible, seeking the help of a dentist trained in cosmetic and restorative dentistry like the professionals at Kennedy Heights Dental can help them regain confidence in their smile.
If cost is a concern, many clinics offer free or sliding scale dentistry in certain circumstances or as special events throughout the year, so it should be encouraged that they inquire about these types of services.
How Mental Health Impacts Oral Health
What impact does mental health have on oral health?
It’s well documented that mental health comes with certain behaviours and treatments that may impact oral hygiene, and these should be considered when seeking dental or general health care.
Certain medications used to treat mental health issues can cause symptoms that may potentially lead to oral health concerns.
For example, antidepressants are known to cause dry mouth which can lead to decay and gum disease caused by bacterial infections if not properly addressed with a dental professional.
If someone is taking medication for a mental health concern, information should be provided on properly caring for oral health if they experience common oral side effects of their medication, or it should be discussed with their dental professional at their next appointment.
Erosion, cavities, and disease can all result from various symptoms and behaviours of mental health concerns.
It’s common for those experiencing eating disorders to experience tooth erosion and an increase in cavities due to binging and purging behaviours, and in late stages even tooth loss or disease.
Those that experience mood disorders may find that taking care of themselves and making healthy lifestyle choices are incredibly difficult, this can result in eating an increased amount of junk food and sugar, not practicing proper oral hygiene such as tooth brushing or flossing or maintaining regular check-ups.
While in the short term these may show minimal impact, if these behaviors continue it can result in cavities, gum disease, and decay.
If facing oral health concerns due to the condition or health of their smile and teeth, getting the advice of a compassionate and qualified restorative dentist like those at Dentistry at Consilium can be life changing.
The connection between mental health and oral health is a cyclical one.
While more research is needed on the direct correlations between the two, it’s well documented that oral health can impact mental health and vice versa.
It’s important that those experiencing mental health concerns consult with their doctor and dentist about what they can do preventatively for their overall oral health.