How your gums and teeth can forewarn dentists about other health ailments.
Visiting a dentist twice year is surely one of the important steps towards maintaining a good oral health and hygiene. But, what people don’t realize is that, this process can often trigger dormant mental issues.
People often find surprising to learn that their dental health or oral health can be directly connected to their mental health. It is the lack of sufficient awareness that causes it.
How does your dental health affect mental health?
As poetic as it might sound, dental health can have a direct impact on mental health. Upon suffering from bad dental health, it can subsequently play a role in deteriorating your mental health as well. If you’re embarrassed about your teeth, you might come to notice that it can trigger subtle or full scale social anxiety. It can cause you to refrain yourself socially, or can affect your self-esteem. This is also give rise to more serious mental health issues.
On the other hand, some doctors also believe that the opposite situation can also equally and truly impactful. That is, your mental health can also affect your dental health, both directly and indirectly. People who happen to be under a lot of stress, often tend to pay lesser heed to their dental health and oral hygiene. Again, your dental health can also give a clear indication about your stress levels, anxiety, mood swings, or the presence of chronic eating disorders.
In a long term research comprising 25 studies, it has been found that people suffering from severe mental health ailments were almost 2.8 times more likely to lose their teeth than the rest of the population. This difference is mostly because of undetected health issues or the difficulty in accessing proper health care services.
All of this has a serious impact on physical health. Some people indulge in drinking, smoking or consumption of a lot of processed food. This is what psychologists classify as “self- soothing behaviors”, and all of these substances are known to have adverse health effects.
What dental health tells us about mental health?
Based on a research carried on by the National Health and Nutrition Examination department, it was brought forward that almost 67% of patients who were diagnosed with clinical depression, also experienced toothaches.
Anxiety or depressive episodes can often make people impossible to function properly on a regular basis. In situations like these, taking care of oneself becomes equally challenging. People lack motivation to do even the simplest of the chores, let alone attending to dental health or oral hygiene.
Similarly, your teeth and mouth can also hint at some upcoming mental health disorder. People often find themselves grinding their teeth, or might experience jaw pain. Worn out teeth enamel can also indicate that the patient might be suffering from acute anxiety disorders, as opined by multiple psychologists and dentists.
People suffering either from obsessive compulsive disorder or bipolar disorders, might also suffer from the problem of worn out enamel. For them, it becomes more of a ritual/habit than a process to maintain their oral hygiene. Wearing out or tooth enamel or tooth decay can also occur when a person struggles with eating disorders. These people are also often known to suffer from ailments with their gum. This is caused by the malnutrition or the high consumption of sugary or processed food.
Impact of Oral Health on Mental Health
Your mental and dental health is much more intricately connected than you might know. Mental disorders can often lead to coping mechanisms like smoking, or consuming processed sugary food, which largely impact on dental or oral health. People suffering from mental health issues, where they often fail to cope with their daily activities, visiting a dentist becomes a long shot.
Here are the top 9 self-harming coping mechanisms to watch out for:
Losing of appetite, which can cause poor nutrition
Eating or drinking way too many sugary foods or processed beverages
Fear of visiting the dentist, or dental anxiety.
Lower levels of energy
Difficulty in performing regular chores like brushing or flossing their teeth
Sensitivity to pain
Alcohol or substance abuse
Smoking, often transitions to chain smoking.
How can you manage my mental health and dental health?
Considering the interconnection between mental and dental health, things you do to manage one can also harm or benefit another. Even the smallest of the positive measures can have long lasting impacts on your health. Here’s a list of day to day lifestyle changes that can help you improve:
Eat a healthy diet
Introducing nutritional diet can go a long way in benefitting both your dental and mental health. Food that comprises fruits, vegetables and other nutritious food items can benefit your dental health and also uplift your mood. Consuming a large plethora of nutritious food on a daily basis can preserve your teeth and take care of your mental health.
Look Out for any symptoms that you might have
Your mouth keeps dropping us hints about the impending or existing ailment in our body. Symptoms like a bleeding gum or dry mouth, jaw ache, or sensitive teeth can be considered as the primary indicators.
Dry mouth is usually caused by certain anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills or mood stabilizers. The compounds present in these medicines causes the saliva inside the mouth to dry up. Saliva is one of the important agents to maintain oral hygiene, and overall health. It not only helps in the process of digestion, but also kills the harmful germs and bacteria preventing them from entering the body through the mouth. These germs can also lead to oral health issues, gum problems and bad breath. Vigorous brushing motions by those with bipolar or other similar disorders could result in them brushing away the enamel or the hard protective layer on the surface of the tooth.
In a situation where you are under medication that is causing your mouth to dry up, it is always advisable to consult your doctor, dentist and your therapist. They will help you find out if that particular medicine is harming your dental hygiene or oral health. People struggling with anxiety issues often tend to show prior symptoms like teeth grinding and canker sores. These symptoms could be destructive to their health, owing to their long and short term effects. Stress is known to have psychological effects on oral health. Cortisone, or popularly known as the stress hormone, hampers a person immunity system, making way for the bacteria to cause gums inflammation. Anti- anxiety or mood stabilizing pills cause the insides of the mouth to dry up the saliva and fail to clear out the food remains left behind in the mouth after eating.
Practice stress reduction activities
Like already mentioned, wearing of enamel can be a red flag. More often than not, it indicates at higher stress or anxiety levels in a person. Should that happen, you might want to try some relaxing or breathing exercises. Practicing yoga and meditation can not only scientifically lower your stress levels, but can also help you focus.
Downloading apps that are available online specifically designed to help you sleep, meditate or calm down might also prove beneficial in circumstances like this.
These might include downloading an app to help you sleep better and be calm at night, or deep breathing and meditation exercises. In fact, you can practice deep breathing and meditation throughout the day to de-stress and focus.
See your dentist as regularly as possible
Dentists are much more than just people who help you maintain your set of teeth. They often happen to be the first ones to detect any forthcoming health issue, or a preexisting dormant mental health issue. They often refer to therapists and psychiatrists, when needs arise. Issues such as teeth grinding are some of the prior symptoms of anxiety driven mental disorders.
Oral Health Preventive Care
Cascading mental situations can have adverse effects on your oral health. People who are embarrassed about their teeth, often find it hard to eat or drink in front of others, which leads them to socialize less with other people. This is in turn hampers their mental wellbeing.
Following are some of the steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
Brushing your teeth twice a day.
Floss your teeth or an interdental brush twice a day
Reduce alcohol consumption or stop completely if possible.
Cut down on processed foods and sugary drinks
See your dentist at regular intervals.
Practice eating a healthy, balanced diet.
If your medication tends to dry your mouth, try xylitol mints. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that helps you in the production of more saliva, and it is also known to help prevent plaque and cavities in your teeth. Some helpful xylitol products include:
Discussing your symptoms with a licensed professional at the earliest is one of the first steps towards getting to the root of the problem. All kinds of physical and psychological problems need immediate medical attention before it gets out of hand.