The Connection Between Oral Health And Mental Health

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

September 8, 2023

dental health, health and wellness, mental health, oral health

Oral health and mental health are two areas that have a remarkable connection to your overall state of health and wellness, but did you know that one can actually impact the other? It doesn’t occur to most people that the two might be connected, but there is a strong connection between oral health and mental health that everyone should be aware of.

Not only can the state of your oral health affect how you feel mentally, but mental health issues can have a serious effect on your oral health as well, depending on the situation. It’s important to keep this relationship in mind to ensure that your teeth and gums are always in great condition and your mental health is the best that it can be.

How The State Of Your Oral Health Can Affect The State Of Your Mental Health

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When you have issues with your oral health, it can have a snowball effect on your mental health that can end up leading to serious problems. If you have damaged or missing teeth, you may feel anxious, embarrassed, or ashamed, and end up withdrawing from social situations. Dental issues can affect your self-esteem to the point that you no longer feel comfortable smiling or laughing when you’re with other people, which can lead to missed opportunities and a lower quality of life.

Sometimes, if a person lets their oral health deteriorate to the point that they are in constant pain, they may rely on pain medication to get through each day, which can lead to problems with addiction and further mental health issues. It’s also possible that someone who is going through recovery from substance use ends up having a setback due to pain medication for dental health issues.

Different Ways Mental Health Issues Can Affect Oral Health

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If someone has issues with their mental wellness, it can end up having a negative effect on oral health. Many people struggling with mental health issues will avoid dental care altogether, as they are focused on other things. This may include avoiding their own personal dental care routine, increasing the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease.

For people that suffer from eating disorders like bulimia, high levels of acidity caused by frequent vomiting can end up eroding enamel and causing serious oral health issues. Other people with high levels of anxiety or phobias are afraid of going to the dentist and will avoid going for years at a time. There are also situations where people may have mental health issues that result in them brushing their teeth far too often and far too aggressively, potentially wearing away tooth enamel and damaging the gum line. Some medications that are prescribed for various mental health issues cause dry mouth and other problems that can affect dental health over the long term.

Using addictive substances is more prevalent among people with mental health issues. This includes substances like tobacco, alcohol, opioids, and other drugs which accelerate dental problems such as infection, gum disease, mouth sores, and possibly even oral cancers. An analysis that took place over 25 years found that those with severe mental health issues were close to three times as likely to have lost teeth than others without such issues.

A Dentist Can Often Find Clues About Your Mental Health

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In certain cases, your dentist may be able to see clues that relate to your mental wellness when doing a routine inspection of your teeth and gums. Some of the things that this detective work may uncover include teeth grinding at night, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic substance use, or eating disorders. These issues can present themselves as worn dental enamel, high levels of tooth decay, chronic gum problems, lesions or mouth sores, and more. If any of this applies to you and your dentist brings it up, it’s always best to be open and honest to get the best level of care for your dental issues and any mental health challenges you may be facing.

Keeping Oral Health And Mental Health In Check

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For anyone who suffers from a serious mental health issue, finding the appropriate professional is always the best way to go. Obviously, there are some conditions that won’t be helped simply by changing certain elements of your lifestyle, but for many people, making certain changes can help both your oral health and mental health work in harmony together. Here are a few ways that can help make a difference:

Adding stress reduction activities to your daily schedule:  These may include deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and regular exercise. Modern lifestyles tend to create a lot of pent-up energy and anxiety, and finding a productive way to release it can help make you feel more relaxed and at ease in your everyday life.

Paying attention to nutrition:  There’s no question that nutrition plays a crucial role in both mental health and oral health. When you start adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet and reducing or eliminating processed foods and high-sugar foods, your teeth and your moods will benefit.

Watch for symptoms:  When it comes to your oral health, signs like aching teeth, sore gums, bleeding gums, chronic dry mouth, sore jaw, or hypersensitivity to hot and cold indicate it’s time to visit your dentist. On the other side, if you’ve been depressed or feeling anxious and notice that it is affecting your oral health routine or hygiene, it’s good to take action sooner rather than later.

Visit your dentist:  When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist to find out exactly what’s going on in your mouth. You can try to self-diagnose or avoid the problems as much as you want, but in the end, you’re going to end up at the dentist anyway, so why not be proactive and get things sorted out as soon as possible before they get worse?

It’s beneficial to everyone to learn about the connection between oral health and mental health. If you’re suffering from mental health issues that may be affecting your dental health, or you have dental problems that are creating anxiety or other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your dentist as soon as possible.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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