Dental health and mental health: Know how one affects the other

Remember the last time you felt embarrassed about your dental hygiene and how it triggered social anxiety in you? That clearly indicates a deep relationship between your dental health and mental health.

Poor oral health decreases the quality of life and exacerbates existing mental health issues. It can also hurt your self-esteem and lead to an increase in some of your mental health symptoms. On the contrary, good oral health boosts one’s confidence and improves social, emotional, and mental well-being.

The connection between oral health and mental health

The health of your teeth – be it the colour of your teeth or state of cavities – can reveal many things about your overall health. It can explain your stress level, anxiety, mood, and chronic eating problems.

A recent study spanning several years revealed that people with severe mental health disorders were 2.8 times more likely to have lost their teeth than others. This is generally due to untreated health conditions or difficulty accessing dental care.

Moreover, it also affects your physical health, as self-soothing behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, and eating processed foods, can impact your health, including your oral hygiene.

dental health and mental health
Crooked teeth or cavities, watch your dental health closely. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to manage your dental health and mental health?

As mental health and dental health are intertwined, you can do multiple things to manage one, and that will take care of the other. Start with making small changes in your daily life. These changes, over time, will have a lasting impact and ensure you keep your mental and dental health in check. Here is a list of things you could do:

1. Eat a balanced diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other minerals- and vitamins-packed food items is essential. Remember, what you eat impacts your mood and, ultimately, your oral health. Therefore, ensure to add a large variety of nutritious foods to your diet, as it will help protect your teeth and gums and boost your mental health.

2. Look for signs and symptoms of poor dental health

You must actively look for signs and symptoms to ensure proper dental hygiene. For example, gum bleeding during brushing or flossing, jaw ache, teeth pain, black spot, and sensitivity to hot and cold foods might indicate poor oral hygiene. Over and above that, consult a doctor if you are experiencing other symptoms, such as a dry mouth. These symptoms could be due to side effects of certain antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizers.

Also read: Do your teeth hurt during winter? Follow these 7 expert tips to prevent it

Mind your stress levels. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Try stress and anxiety reduction activities

Reducing stress is important. Practice stress and anxiety reduction activities such as deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, and visualization to reduce the impact of poor mental health on your dental hygiene. In addition, inculcate physical relaxation techniques in your daily life as it will add another layer of relaxation for physical and psychological stress relief when added to breathing exercises.

4. Visit a dentist

Make a list of questions before you visit your dentist, who can help you find treatment so that you can take care of your mental and dental health. Also, don’t be embarrassed if you have teeth, gums, or mouth issues. Instead, visit a doctor and share with them if some mental health issues are coming your way.

Remember, you and your dentist can together tackle the mental health issues you have and protect your oral health and overall health.

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