How does oral health affect your mental health?11 August 2022
You might not think to associate mental health with your local dentist, but as the effects of mental health conditions can leave you feeling anxious, unmotivated, low in energy it becomes a bit easier to see why this might impact your oral health. We would like to start by saying that we are here to accommodate all patients, and we are all compassionate and understanding in our approach of how we make our patients feel welcome. If you suffer with mental health, or you might better want to understand how to support a loved one with their mental health then have a read about how it can impact their dental wellbeing, and some tips to help manage it.
To start, let’s identify some of the most common conditions associated to dental neglect and common issues that people with these conditions face. Those who suffer from panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, self-harm, schizophrenia and psychosis are some of the most likely to experience the following:
When you have anxiety, going to places that are new or that you could imagine may go wrong or are associated with pain can build up in your mind to the point that you imagine the worst-case scenario. This can be very off putting when it comes to visiting dentists. Alternatively, people with anxiety may find themselves anxious over their dental care and go the other way with over brushing, which in turn can have a negative impact on the condition of teeth and gums. This is very common for those with an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Loss of appetite
Poor nutrition can lead to tooth decay as the teeth do not get the nutrients they need to stay strong. People suffering from this are more likely to have cavities as plaque bacteria accumulates and eats away at the enamel. Conditions such as Bulimia and being sick can damage the mouth, throat and teeth and also lowers the amount of saliva.
Contrastingly those who consume more sugary foods and drinks which is commonly associated with comfort eating, risk allowing the plaque bacteria to use the sugar to produce acid which in turn attacks the enamel on your teeth.
Difficulty maintaining daily tasks in conditions such as depression can lead to sufferers forgetting, or not having the energy to brush their teeth. Medication for depression can also lead to burning mouth syndrome or dry mouth.
Whether it be a traumatic event that has happened in the past or just the fear of it, pain, or the thought of possible pain to can be enough to put off seeking dental treatment or even attending a routine dental appointment. This is sadly often due to a lack of innovation in the past or previous painful treatments, which is now not the case at all with modern technology and techniques.
Alcohol, drug or substance abuse
All three of these can act as a precursor to gum disease in that it creates a dry mouth. This causes acid to build up in the mouth due to a lack of saliva which leads to enamel being attacked, making the sufferer more susceptible to gum disease or cavities.
So how can we help manage our mental health?
The increase in the nutrients that our body takes from exposure to sunlight can help you release serotonin, the chemical that your brain produces to feel happy. Getting outside for a ‘mental health walk’ can literally brighten your day.
Helping you discipline yourself as well as also releasing more serotonin, exercise can help shift your mindset into feeling better about your own wellbeing.
Connection with others
We all need to talk, so if you know that when left to your own devices you are prone to overthinking, reach out to a friend or loved one. It can be common for sufferers to think that others do not want to see you or that you are burdening them. Ask yourself this, would they want to be in your life if that was the case?
In a world filled with technology, that is rapidly changing with all sorts of issues that accompany it we all need to take a break. Taking time out for yourself to relax is important in avoiding burnout. You can also take breaks from stress related activities such as reading the news.
If you suffer from any of the above conditions or know someone who is reluctant to book an appointment because of this, please reach out to a member of our dedicated team who can help put your fears at ease. Tours of the practice are also welcome at our home in Pateley Bridge.