Understanding the Link Between Oral Health & Mental Health
The end of the year can be joyful for many, but also very difficult for others. As we approach the end of 2021, it’s important to remember that the holidays conjure up a vast array of feelings and can both positively and negatively impact mental health. For this reason, we believe it’s important to describe and explain the link between oral health and mental health at such a sensitive time of year.
Believe it or not, your oral health and your mental health are more closely connected than you may realize. Research has found that people with mental health challenges tend to experience oral health conditions like teeth and gum problems. This is often linked to the notion that people with mental health issues lean toward unhealthy habits as coping mechanisms. This may include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Heavy and regular alcohol consumption
- Loss of appetite
- Eating unhealthy foods
- Consuming sugary beverages
- Dry mouth, which generally leads to halitosis or bad breath
What can these coping mechanisms lead to? Here’s what you may be faced with:
- Dental erosion: the loss of the surface of your teeth due to acids you eat or drink
- Tooth decay: damage to the tooth’s surface or erosion (linked to the above term)
- Periodontal disease: also known as gum disease, this is a severe infection that seriously damages your soft tissue and can destroy the bone that supports your teeth, if not properly treated
- Tooth loss: according to NCBI, “69% of adults ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal or tooth decay”; there are tooth replacement options you can consider
How can you prevent this from happening? Or at least do your best to manage it? Here are some tips for taking care of your mental health, which can – in turn – lead to better oral health:
- Talk about your feelings – it’s not healthy to keep heavy emotions bottled up so make sure that you’re honoring your emotions
- Stay active – regular and consistent exercise can boost your self-esteem and can also help you to concentrate and sleep better
- Eat well – be mindful of what you’re putting into your body as what you eat not only affects your physical being, but your brain functionality as well; vitamins and minerals affect our teeth
- Drink sensibly and in moderation – if you notice that alcohol negatively impacts your mood, then refrain from consuming it; instead, focus on hydration!
- Keep in touch – make sure to check in on those that are close with you – human connection can go a long way, especially around the holidays
- Ask for help – if you’re overwhelmed or stressed out, don’t be afraid to ask for help; we can only handle so much and it’s okay to seek assistance, whether that be through friends or family members or contacting a therapist
- Take a break – we live in a fast-paced society; it’s important to pause, take a breath and allow yourself to reset
If at any time you’re feeling like life is too heavy or too much, we recommend contacting your primary care doctor and/or a mental health professional. We strongly encourage you to contact us with any oral health concerns. Happy Holidays to all who are celebrating, and know we have you in our thoughts and well wishes throughout the season and always!