An area of our health that is often overlooked when speaking about oral health, is the relationship between our Oral Health and our Mental Health. Studies are showing that Oral Health and Mental Health are closely linked and have a two-way association. An individual diagnosed with a mental health condition is more likely to develop issues with their oral health such as tooth decay, periodontal disease or tooth loss. (Tiwari et al., 2021) However, individuals that have a fear of dentists can develop anxiety or phobias. Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe (Health at a Glance Report, 2018), which has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, we need to be more aware of the effect both our mental and oral health can have on each other.
- Food Consumption: Mental Health issues can negatively affect our food intake either by consuming excess amounts of food or even cause a loss of appetite. Over-eating can increase the consumption of “free sugar” foods or drinks that hold no nutritional value which would contribute to tooth decay. A loss of appetite can cause malnutrition which can affect the growth and repair or healing of tissues or membranes within our oral cavity. If an individual suffers with an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia, these tend to have a negative impact on oral health. Bulimics or binge-eaters tend to suffer most with oral health problems, especially dental erosion. (Johansson et al., 2012)
- Low Energy Levels: Mood disorders, such as depression, can affect energy levels, which can cause a lack of motivation and can cause extreme fatigue. Often, this can make everyday tasks e.g. brushing your teeth or flossing, a difficult task.
- Fear of dentists: A fear of your dentist can contribute to high levels of anxiety and even lead to developing a phobia of the dentist. This will negatively impact your health by not visiting the dentist. If you do suffer with anxiety, nerves or have a phobia of the dentist, check out this blog post for our experts top tips on how to overcome this: https://decare.ie/dental/dental-anxiety/
- Xerostomia: Antidepressants and antipsychotics are known to increase the risk of Xerostomia, otherwise known as ‘Dry Mouth’. Xerostomia can contribute to a whole host of other issues such as thrush or poor denture retention. It is important to chat with your dentist or doctor to try and help find solutions for dry mouth to prohibit any further oral health issues.
- Oral Hygiene: Bad breath or loss of teeth can contribute to a low self-esteem and social anxiety, which can cause further mental health issues due to a lack of connectivity with other human beings. However, it is important to note that good oral health and a healthy smile can boost or lead to positive mental health as this will improve confidence and self-esteem.
How to manage your Oral Care and Mental Health:
As oral health and mental health are closely related, this means what you do to manage or positively change the outcome for one will benefit the other.
- Regular Dental Check-Ups
- Balanced, Nutritious Diet
- Speak to your GP if your medication is affecting your oral health
- Listen to a Podcast or some Music when doing your Oral care routine
- Take part in some activities to reduce stress such as meditation or controlled breathing
- Seek help from trained professionals to manage your mental health illness
Poor mental health and/or oral health will affect our overall health and wellbeing. However, dentists and doctors are trained to spot the signs and symptoms and treat them. If your mental health is affecting your oral health or vice versa, it is best to seek help and intervention early to prohibit a plethora of issues for your mental health and/or oral health.