While its taken decades for mental health to come to the fore of wellness conversations publicly, the more it has, the more awareness there has been in improving lives for those with mental illness.
Like most health topics and conditions, many are cyclical. The same can be said about the connection between mental health and dental health. In tune with Youth Suicide Prevention Week, we wanted to dive into this relationship to better understand the correlation and be open and honest about the importance of these conversations in assessing and bettering overall health.
The relationship between mental and dental health stems from the cyclical nature of our body’s health. Patients with mental health issues are less likely to prioritize physical health just as those with dental health issues may, in turn, experience mental health issues. Neglecting any aspect of care further can impair a patient’s health, creating a vicious cycle leading to worse nutrition, less activity, and overall healthy habit deficits.
Specifically in terms of dental health, the connection between the two is still being researched and studied. From what we know now, there are some clear connections. For example:
- Since depression is linked to higher use and abuse of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, patients suffering from depression are more likely to experience tooth erosion or decay
- While depression generally causes self-neglect, such as not showering, brushing hair, etc. this can extend to dental health in which patients have poor oral hygiene leading to decay, periodontal disease and tooth loss
- Patients with bipolar affective disorder are known to over brush, damaging gums and causing abrasions and lacerations
- Patients with eating disorders who regularly vomit typically are more susceptible to tooth decay and tooth loss from the stomach acids
- Some side effects of particular mental health-related drugs can cause a high susceptibility to oral bacteria or infections
Additionally, just as mental health can affect your dental health, research is showing the opposite relationship exists as well.
- Poor dental health can lead to speech difficulties or bad breath, adding to or furthering social anxiety
- Patients with mental health issues are more likely to have tooth loss and in turn, missing teeth can affect a wide array of life aspects such as self-esteem, self-image and more
Even with all this information, it can sometimes seem like there is little we can do to help ourselves and others break these cyclical health issues. While that may seem to be the case, there is much that can be done!
1- Speak Openly About Mental Health
Speaking openly is a great way to allow yourself to open up or for others to know you are someone who is understanding and open to being supportive. The more something is normalized, the more conversations can be started leading to de-stigmatization and an overall better health and wellness experience in all aspects of care.
2- Educate Yourself and Others
By better understanding mental health as well as signs of concerning issues, you and others can better serve as caring advocates. Even in reading this blog post, you are better able to understand how aspects of your dental hygiene can help boost your mental health.
3- Encourage Equality Between All Aspects of Your Health.
Just as you make dental and doctor appointments for yearly check-ups and procedures, make sure you also take time to schedule check-ups, regular meetings and more with mental health professionals. Taking a holistic approach to health and encouraging others to do the same can only better benefit all aspects of your health, even when they may not seem related.
These actions and more truly can make a difference in elevating the conversation about mental health. Given mental health’s close connection and impactful relationship with all aspects of your health, it is so important! At the Maxillofacial Surgery Center, we understand the crucial link between oral and mental health. We strive to make compassionate and empowering care a priority in assessing any patients dental health.