There is a strong connection between a person’s mental health and his/her oral health. In 2015, a quantitative analysis of studies performed over 25 years revealed that people living with severe mental health disorders were 2.8 times more likely to have lost their teeth as compared to the general population. This relationship may not be widely understood, yet there are reasons why it exists. For example, mental health disorders can include coping habits such as smoking that have a negative impact on a person’s oral health.
At your Fuquay-Varina dentist, we are aware of the issues between your mental health and oral health. We are especially experienced in dealing with the anxiety of seeing the dentist and can provide help if you experience the symptoms. In this article, we will explore how your oral and mental health can be connected.
Dental Health Can Affect Mental Health
When you have poor oral health, it can decrease the quality of your life and exacerbate mental health issues. Poor oral health can impact your eating, speech, and self-esteem. For instance, when you are self-conscious and embarrassed about the health of your teeth, you may feel anxious when you are in social settings, causing you to withdraw and reduce social interactions. The state of your oral health can affect your self-esteem, which can then further increase mental health issues.
Mental Health Can Affect Dental Health
Being under tremendous stress dealing with a mental illness can cause you to ignore your dental hygiene. Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can lead people to engage in behaviors caused by their illness that affect oral health, such as:
- Loss of appetite, which can lead to poor nutrition
- Eating or drinking too many foods and beverages that contain sugar
- Low energy
- Problems performing daily tasks like brushing their teeth
- Alcohol use problems or drug use
- Dry mouth
If you have anxiety, depression, or another mental illness, you may not feel like eating so you skip meals or not eat at all. People who have poor nutrition or eating disorders may have low levels of calcium. Calcium is important in having strong teeth and a lack of calcium can cause weakened enamel. Eating disorders like bulimia, where a person vomits after eating, can damage the throat, teeth, and mouth. Bulimia can also decrease the amount of saliva in the mouth, causing dry mouth and dental problems.
Depression and other mental illnesses can cause a person to feel tired and unmotivated. Basic tasks like brushing and flossing your teeth can become difficult.
Depression and anxiety, as well as overall health issues such as fibromyalgia, can make you sensitive to pain. If you feel pain acutely, you may be fearful of going to the dentist.
Alcohol, Smoking, and Other Drugs
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may be more likely to drink alcohol which can lead to gum disease and possibly cause oral cancer. Smoking and using other drugs can also cause a deterioration of your dental and oral health.
Some medications for mental illnesses, such as antidepressants, have side effects like dry mouth which may increase your risk for gum disease. Saliva is very important for oral health because it kills harmful germs that can lead to tooth and gum problems.
When you have dental anxiety, going to the dentist for checkups, cleanings, or taking care of issues with your teeth can be challenging. At Hamby Family Dental Center, we can make the experience smooth and as pain-free as possible so that you are comfortable. We can even work with your therapist to help you address this particular issue in order to protect your oral health.
Preventing Poor Oral Health
Here are some steps to prevent having poor oral health:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Clean between your teeth with dental floss or an interdental brush two times a day
- Stop smoking
- Cut back on foods and drinks with high sugar content
- Reduce alcohol use or stop drinking alcohol
- See a dentist regularly
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Use oral products with xylitol if you have a dry mouth
Managing Your Mental Health
Mental health is a huge problem in our society and many issues must be taken care of with medications. However, there are practices that may assist in reducing the symptoms of mental health and improve well-being.
Incorporating physical activity into your routine can greatly improve mood and self-esteem by changing the chemicals in your brain. Exercise releases endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Be Around People and Connect with Them
You have a better sense of belonging when you have good relationships with people. Being with people and connecting with them can give you support and increase your feelings of self-worth. Try these ways of building closer relationships:
- Go for a walk with a friend
- Have lunch with a co-worker or friend
- Volunteer in the community
- Engage with your family and friends
Being mindful involves slowing down and noticing your feelings and the things that surround you throughout each day. The sounds, smells, and sights that are all around bring you into the present so you aren’t preoccupied with the future or past. These give you a sense of calm and focus and improve your well-being.
Contact Us Today for Better Oral Health
Our team at Hamby Family Dentistry will take extra care in making your experience with us a comfortable, gentle one. We can take a holistic approach that includes your other physicians, therapists, and treatments in order to give you the best care possible. Contact us today for a checkup. Call us at (919) 552-2431 or complete the form below.