Oral health and mental health: the overlooked link

Oral health and mental health: the overlooked link


5 minute read

Whilst it’s often overlooked as just a routine part of your day, your oral health routine can be that small but significant bit of self-care that sets you up for the day. It's also a big contributing factor to your self-care and mental health.

We can all be guilty of neglecting our teeth and gums. This might mean occasionally skipping brushes, but if you find you have abandoned your oral care altogether there could be a much more serious underlying cause. 

Whilst not widely discussed, there is an undeniable link between our dental hygiene and our mental health. Here we take a look at the often-ignored connection between mental health and oral health. 



The link between oral health and mental health

Have you ever had that nightmare where your teeth fall out? You aren’t alone. A quick search will throw up a dozen or so surveys that show this is a universally frequent nightmare. It’s up there with falling and being chased.

The underlying meaning of a dream like this is, obviously, open to interpretation but the fact remains that we humans have extreme anxiety that is linked to losing our teeth. 

If you are familiar with our story, then you know that the pain of an aching tooth and anxiety about the dentist is what inspired Truthpaste in the first place. The physical pain of teeth or gums affects the body as a whole. The limitations of everything from speech to mobility can be overwhelming and distressing.

We are good at taking our teeth for granted but when there are problems with our teeth and gums, the effects on our mental health are clear and well documented. Whilst the link between oral health and mental health isn't immediately obvious in your self-care routine, the two have a symbiotic relationship. One affects the other and vice-versa.



Oral health and confidence

Having issues with teeth and gums can have a drastic impact on your confidence. There is a negative stigma attached to having missing or bad teeth. Bad oral health can be the result of many contributing factors. Unfortunately, it is stigmatised in the same way that mental health is. Those suffering from dental issues report feeling unable to socialise or enjoy their day-to-day as they had previously done. 



Oral health and Depression

Aside from the social aspect of oral care issues, the pain associated with them can very easily lead to feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and depressed. The behavioral habits associated with depression can mean that oral health continues to decline whilst untreated. 

Conversely, it is well documented that depression itself can lead to poor oral health. Diet and personal care are often cited as the main reasons for a decline in oral health in depression. However, more complex and biological causes are at play here. 



Oral health and Anxiety

However it may present, anxiety affects people both mentally and physically. Like depression, issues with your teeth and gums can give rise to anxiety or anxiety can adversely affect your teeth and gums. Common tropes such as grinding teeth, dry mouth, and vomiting that are associated with anxiety can all cause damage to the enamel and overall issues with overall health



Oral care is self-care

When looking more closely at the relationship between oral health and mental health, it's easy to see the effect that one has on the other. Your oral-care routine is just one way that you can take a bit of time out to make yourself feel good. A brushing experience that makes you feel really clean and fresh can be a small step to feeling positive for the start of a new day or refreshed after an exhausting one.

Truthpaste Original was intended for that very feeling. When a crippling toothache took hold, those all-important antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties were what eased the pain for Marisa!

It is extremely important that you talk to someone if you feel that your mental health is suffering. If your oral health is causing you to feel anxious or depressed then your dental practitioner can advise you. Going to your GP or organisations such as the Samaritans is a positive first step in facing mental health issues.



Resources

Thomas A. Arcury, PhD, et al. (2009) Oral Health Self-Care Behaviors of Rural Older Adults, J Public Health Dent.

Julio Torales, Iván Barrios, Israel González, (2017), Oral and dental health issues in people with mental disorders, Medwave 2017

Samaritans,  sarmaritans.org  call: 116 123

Yu, C. K. C. (2012). Dream motif scale. Dreaming 22, 18–52. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Kisely S, Baghaie H, Lalloo R, Siskind D, Johnson NW (2015a) A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between poor oral health and severe mental illness. Psychosomatic Medicine. 77(1):83–92.

 

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