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Oral Health and Mental Health: What’s the Link?

When people talk about oral health, they might mention cutting back on their sugar intake to prevent cavities or flossing to help their gums. Mental wellness rarely enters the conversation, but it should. Depending on each person’s well-being and lifestyle, there could be many links between their oral and mental health.

Here’s how oral health affects mental health and vice versa. Everyone should become informed about what could contribute to bad dental health and what they can do to help themselves. Reflecting on your mental wellness is a great place to start.

1. Depression Makes Routines Challenging

If you haven’t received a depression diagnosis or known someone who has, you might think it’s a condition where people always feel sad. Although sadness is a symptom, it’s not the only way depression affects people. It can also cause debilitating side effects such as:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Loss of interest in daily activities

Those specific challenges often interfere with a person’s dental health. They may not have the energy to get out of bed and brush their teeth twice daily. They could forget that it’s something they need to do or lose interest in caring for their teeth in general.

Someone with untreated depression could go without brushing their teeth for days or weeks. It allows bacteria to build up around their mouth and cause dental problems that may require surgery to fix.

2. Anxiety Makes the Dentist Intimidating

People can experience anxiety at any age, which may explain why some individuals are scared of going to dental appointments. Kids might fear the dentist because they don’t understand what the tools do, but adults also experience anxiety when visiting the dentist.

Don’t feel alone when you picture going to the dentist and get nervous. A quick phone call about your anxiety will help your dentist work through your worries while you’re on the phone so you’re more at ease during your next appointment. Your primary care physician can also lead you through some breathing techniques or discuss potential treatment options for more chronic anxiety if you’ve never received help for it before.

3. Poor Dental Health Affects Your Self-Esteem

When you feel food stuck in your front teeth, you probably don’t want to smile until you’ve rushed to the bathroom and removed it. You’d be self-conscious otherwise, which lowers your self-esteem.

Poor dental health and hygiene work the same way. Someone who forgets to brush their teeth will have bad breath. A person with yellowed teeth around the gumline might not smile very often. The effort of holding yourself back from socializing or expressing yourself will lower your self-esteem, ultimately harming your mental health. It’s a sneaky way teeth affect mental health without people ever realizing it.

4. Physical Pain Can Exacerbate Self-Worth

It’s annoying when you take a sip of cold water or enjoy a spoonful of ice cream and experience sensitivity to the temperature. Getting your dental hygiene routine back on track can make that problem disappear.

However, challenges like dry mouth, cavities, and other dental problems can sometimes result in long-term physical pain. Infections can even spread to other body parts and cause symptoms like:

  • Fevers
  • Darker urine
  • Vomiting

Consider someone living with chronic pain as you learn how oral health affects mental health. Feeling like you can’t control your body or ease your pain may result in powerless thoughts. Depression and anxiety can soon follow, ultimately harming your long-term mental health.

5. Dental Problems Could Indicate Eating Disorders

Anxiety and dental health often become a primary concern for people with eating disorders. These conditions change your food intake and immediately impact your dental health.

Someone with anorexia may worry about maintaining their appearance or physical health, so they avoid food. It would mean sacrificing daily nutrients your teeth and gums need to stay healthy. Without them, your dental health could deteriorate and lead to infections or tooth loss.

A person with bulimia may eat enough food but then vomit after meals and snacks. Stomach acid has a low pH level that burns your teeth and gums away, resulting in erosion that’s impossible to fix.

Eating disorders are mental health conditions, so they always require the help of a therapist specializing in someone’s particular disordered eating habits. Dentists can also work alongside these experts or answer your questions to craft a hygiene plan that addresses these unique needs.

6. PTSD Makes Routines Harder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that can develop after any trauma. If you ever had a traumatic experience at a dental office, you may avoid oral health treatments because the anxiety of going is too much to handle. PTSD can also make patients fearful of dental procedures or tools.

People can learn to live with and manage their PTSD by attending regular counseling sessions as advised by their therapist, but they should also talk about it with their doctor. Even if you don’t have an official diagnosis, mentioning a past dental trauma will make overcoming your fear and anxiety easier. Your dentist will work with you to make you feel comfortable during every step of your appointment.

7. Food-Related Anxiety Affects Teeth

Anxiety affects people in different ways. Some individuals crave sugar during moments of intense tension. Stress hormones demand more energy from your body to remain in the fight-or-flight mode that’s foundational for anxiety. In return, the brain needs sugar to get an immediate spike in energy.

Eating more sugar introduces additional bacteria into your mouth, increasing your chance of developing cavities. It can also make you consume more acidic foods like sour candies, which result in enamel erosion if you don’t brush your teeth twice a day. Anxiety and dental health are often closely linked but may only become noticeable after personal reflection.

8. ADHD Could Cause Nutritional Lapses

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can seem like a problem for kids because that’s when doctors often diagnose the condition, but adults can have undiagnosed ADHD as well. It makes focusing difficult and may result in short-term memory loss, leading to forgetfulness.

People with ADHD often forget to eat meals regularly. Their daily nutrient intake might not be high enough to maintain their dental health. They can also neglect to brush, floss, or use mouthwash.

9. Addictions Hurt Your Teeth

Drinking or doing drugs can also hurt your teeth. People with addictions often experience dry mouth, which reduces how much saliva is available to wash away bacteria. Cavities will become more likely, along with tooth decay and gum disease from acidic addictive substances. Dental problems will only become more noticeable when addictions become chronic because it’s harder to fight the oral health effects without medical assistance. 

10. Low Self-Confidence Causes Rescheduling

Self-confidence may also contribute to a person’s poor dental hygiene. They might not think their teeth are worth taking care of or that they’re not good enough to fix their dental problems. Low self-confidence can also cause people to reschedule routine dental appointments if they’re embarrassed about not maintaining a perfect hygiene routine.

No one can expect perfection of themselves in anything. Your dentist knows people occasionally forget to brush or floss. It happens all the time. Keeping your next cleaning appointment will prevent your anxiety and dental health from teaming up against your well-being. You’re worthy of comfort, health, and a beautiful smile, no matter how often you floss or wear your nightly retainer.

Learn How Oral Health Affects Mental Health

Now that you’ve learned more about how oral health affects mental health and vice versa, contact your dentist today. They’ll help you address any questions or concerns about anxiety, depression, or other conditions preventing you from having excellent teeth and gums. Finding a solution is always easier when multiple people work together on the same problem.

Author – Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about fitness, diet, fitness, mental health, and parenting. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness routines and recipes.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for general education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. It is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or any other advice specific to you the user or anyone else. TurtleVerse does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information and shall not be held responsible for any action taken based on the published information.



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