What is the connection between dental and mental health?

Ever considered how your oral health can impact your mental health?

Though it may seem a tad obvious, it’s important that you take care of your teeth and gums – not just as a child but as you get older too. In doing so, you’ll have healthy teeth and won’t need to make as many trips to the dentist! But what does this have to do with your mental health?

The past 12 months have been tough all-round and the coronavirus has affected every one of us in some way or another – either emotionally, financially or physically. The lockdown has even impacted health services, changing the way we would normally attend dental appointments and receive treatments. But clinics, like Al-FaPerio who specialise in dental implants in Essex, have remained open throughout the pandemic, taking all of the necessary safety measures, of course!

Whilst, for many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown brings longed-for opportunities to reunite with friends and restore a sense of normality, the prospect of coming out of lockdown can be daunting – especially for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 or suffer from anxiety and mental health illnesses.

So, let’s take a closer look at how your mental health can affect your dental health, and vice versa.

How mental health can lead to poor dental health

Believe it or not, the relationship between the two is a cyclical one and there is evidence to suggest that patients with mental issues are less likely to take proper care of their health.

For example, people who suffer from stress, depression or anxiety can sometimes lose focus on their oral health habits. This includes simple things like brushing twice a day, flossing between teeth and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Instead, they self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, and too much can cause tooth erosion and/or decay.

The harsh reality is, depression and anxiety create stress which manifests in the body as a hormone called ‘cortisol’. As these cortisol levels increase, it weakens the immune system and can lead to gum inflammation and periodontal (gum) disease.

Although there are medications that can be prescribed for such mental health illnesses, these can often cause dry mouth. And the lack of saliva in the mouth can result in debris, plaque and bacteria build-up – leaving cavities to form on your teeth.

People with bipolar disorders, on the other hand, tend to over-brush their teeth which may damage the gums and cause dental abrasion. If left untreated such conditions could lead to serious problems and subsequent tooth loss.

How poor oral health can affect your mental well-being

For people who have a phobia of the dentist, the idea of having dental treatment can lead to anxiety and, in turn, negatively impact their oral health. And the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem – making a trip to the dentist even more unnerving. However, we can assure you that healthcare providers have the highest safety measures and protocols in place to ensure the safety of their patients and staff at all times.

After spending so much time at home – isolated from loved ones and unable to socialise face-to-face – you’re bound to have lots to catch up on. However, poor dental health can have a significant impact on speech and cause social anxiety. Similarly, there’s the fear of bad breath.

Gapped, chipped or missing teeth can affect you psychologically too, and your self-esteem and self-image can often take a knock. But this needn’t be the case. Al-FaPerio are periodontal and laser specialists and their skilled team can help you to regain both your confidence and smile. They use laser gum and dental implant treatments to build strong, healthy mouths.