The connection between mind and body has been explored and studied for years. Our minds and emotions are known to influence our health in many ways, and we all know our health has a direct impact on our mental state. So if we want to care for our mental and emotional wellbeing, we need to be vigilant and care for every part of our bodies.
Though you may not have considered it before, there is a direct link between oral health and the health of your mind. In fact, like many things in life, it is a cyclical relationship. Good oral health can enhance mental health, while poor mental health can sometimes cause oral health issues. As a result, the body becomes deprived of nutrition, and healthy habits fall by the wayside.
If left entirely untreated, dental diseases can lead to teeth loss. Evidence shows that individuals with mental illness have nearly three times the likelihood of losing all their teeth when compared to the general population. Below, we’ll explore the relationship between oral health and mental health, and how the two impact one another.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND GUM DISEASE
Anxiety and depression can sometimes go hand-in-hand. They are two sides of the same coin and, unfortunately, more and more people are being diagnosed with these conditions. More than 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide, while one in thirteen people suffer from anxiety. These conditions can impact your general health, which most people understand, but you may be unaware of how they affect your gums in the following ways:
- Conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety cause your body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. This, in increased amounts, can aid in the rapid progression of periodontal disease.
- Depression can sometimes cause people to turn to caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, which can cause tooth decay, erosion and fillings.
- People with depression can sometimes neglect their self-care, which results in poor oral hygiene and tooth decay as a result.
- Though they can be tremendously helpful, antidepressants can have side effects for your oral health. For example, dry mouth reduces the flow of saliva, opening you up to a higher susceptibility to oral bacterial infections.
For these reasons, people living with mental disorders have been known to be at greater risk for oral and dental disease when compared to the general population.
BIPOLAR AFFECTIVE DISORDER AND DENTAL HEALTH
Bipolar affective disorder affects 2.4 million people in the UK alone. This condition causes periods of extreme depression and bouts of abnormally affected moods that can be dangerous and difficult for the individual as well as those around them. People with the condition are known to over-brush, which has an adverse effect on dental health by damaging gums and causing dental abrasions, gingival lacerations and mucosal lacerations. Treatment for bipolar sufferers is lithium, which can cause patients to experience xerostomia (dry mouth) and stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth and lips). For this reason, individuals with bipolar disorder need to be increasingly vigilant when it comes to dental care.
EATING DISORDERS AND TOOTH EROSION
This is a relationship that is generally more well known. Tooth decay is a warning sign of many eating disorders and one that makes the disease more evident. Acids from frequent vomiting make eating disorder patients more susceptible to tooth decay while patients with anorexia often have low levels of calcium intake, which could affect the health of the teeth.
POOR DENTAL HEALTH AND POOR SELF-IMAGE
We all want to look good, and when we don’t, it can impact our self-esteem. When we’re ashamed of the quality of our teeth, we smile less, we hide more, and our self-image and self-worth suffers. On top of this, poor dental health can affect speech and cause bad breath, which leads to significant social anxiety. We get worried about the judgement of others, and this all impacts our mental wellness. As we mentioned above, this can be a vicious cycle, as poor mental health also often leads to neglect in terms of dental care.
Author Bio – Doctor David Keenan is a dentist, keen businessman and owner of Pembroke Dental. David has a passion for short-term adult orthodontics and helping people look their best