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Are oral health and mental health linked?

Oral health and mental health are closely linked. Poor oral health can exacerbate mental health issues, while mental illness can also lead to poorer dental hygiene and oral health problems. Understanding this mind-body connection is key for overall well-being.

How Mental Health Issues Impact Oral Health

Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can all negatively impact oral health in various ways.

Dental phobia

An extreme fear of visiting the dentist or receiving dental treatment can prevent people from getting the oral care they need. This phobia is common in those with anxiety disorders.

Poor oral hygiene

Mental health issues like depression can make it difficult to maintain an oral hygiene routine. Lack of motivation and feelings of hopelessness may lead to infrequent brushing, flossing, and dental visits.

Eating disorders

Conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder often involve behaviours like self-induced vomiting, poor nutrition, and acid erosion of tooth enamel due to gastric acid. This increases the risk of cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

OCD tendencies like teeth grinding and jaw clenching can wear down tooth enamel and lead to other dental damage over time.

Bipolar disorder

Manic episodes may include teeth grinding or neglect of oral hygiene. Depressive periods can also contribute to poor dental care habits.

Dry mouth

Many medications used to treat mental illness cause dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralise acids and wash away food particles, so a lack of saliva increases the risk of cavities and gum disease.

How Oral Health Problems Impact Mental Health

On the other hand, poor oral health can also exacerbate mental health conditions or contribute to mental illness. Here are some of the ways dentition issues affect mental well-being:

  • Tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections cause pain and discomfort, which can worsen feelings of depression and anxiety.

  • Dental/facial conditions such as cleft lip and palate may contribute to poor self-esteem and social isolation.

  • Missing, damaged, or crooked teeth can make people reluctant to smile or speak in social settings, affecting their confidence and mood.

  • Difficulty chewing due to poor oral health can lead to poor nutrition, low energy levels, and disrupted sleep. These physical effects create mental health issues.

  • Oral side effects of psychiatric medications, like dry mouth and gum inflammation, cause pain and complications.

Accessing Dental Care with Mental Illness

Unfortunately, mental health conditions can also complicate access to oral healthcare. People with mental illness often face stigma from dentists and barriers to receiving quality treatment. However, there are things you can do to get the oral care you need:

  • Find dentists who are experienced in treating patients with mental illness. The team at Hermitage Dental Practice have years of experience in this.

  • Be open with your dentist about your mental health history and any medications you take. Proper communication helps ensure safe, appropriate treatment.

  • Bring a support person to appointments to help advocate for your needs.

  • Ask your dentist to explain procedures thoroughly and signal if you need a break. Knowing what to expect can ease anxiety.

  • Oral health and mental health influence one another in complex ways. Being mindful of this connection is the first step to improving wellbeing from head to mouth! With proactive communication, self-care, and access to empathetic providers, people with mental illness can achieve good oral health.

Taking a Proactive Approach

The mouth is often seen as separate from the rest of the body, but oral health and mental health clearly impact one another in significant ways. Poor oral health can make mental health issues worse, while mental illness often contributes to poorer dental outcomes. Because of this mind-body connection, taking a proactive and integrated approach is important for those managing both oral and mental health conditions.

Some steps you can take include regularly visiting both your dentist and mental health professional for check-ups and treatment. Be diligent about oral hygiene routines like brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Inform your providers about any new medications you start taking. Seek therapy and support for coping with dental phobias or trauma. Ask your dentist for accommodations like scheduling shorter, less stressful appointments. Treat oral pain and infections promptly before they worsen. Implement healthy stress relief habits like meditation, journaling, or breathing exercises. Support overall wellness through proper nutrition, sleep hygiene, and social connection.

With greater awareness of the mouth-mind link, proactive self-care, open provider communication, and integrated treatment strategies, we can break down barriers and optimise health from head to mouth. A holistic view empowers people to take control of both their oral and mental well-being.

At Hermitage Dental Practice, we are dedicated to answering all your questions and providing comprehensive dentistry services. Our experienced team is committed to your oral health and well-being, ensuring you receive the highest quality care in a warm and friendly environment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards achieving a healthy, beautiful smile.

If you feel as though you require any kind of general dentistry, get in touch with our team and we will schedule a consultation on 01530 510533.

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