The health of your mouth and teeth can have a drastic impact on your mental well-being and vice versa. Many don’t think about this, but there’s confidence and self-esteem associated with knowing you are taking good care of your mouth/teeth. The power of a smile is contagious, and when we feel good about our teeth, we smile more. But it’s also important to note that mental health can have an effect on your mouth as well.
How Your Teeth Affect Your Mental Health
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 36% of adults experienced anxiety because of the condition of their mouth and teeth in the last 12 months. That’s only anxiety; 40% feel embarrassed. Furthermore, 22% of young adults reduce participation in social activities due to the condition of their mouth and teeth. These negative views of teeth are impacting people’s ability to interview, hang out with friends and have caused them to find life less satisfying.
How Mental Health Can Affect Your Teeth
Anxiety and depression can affect your oral health. From a biological standpoint, the stress anxiety and depression create increases the amount of the cortisol hormone in your body. As your cortisol levels increase, your immune system gets weaker leaving you more susceptible to gingivitis and gum disease. In addition, anxiety can lead to canker sores, dry mouth and teeth grinding while depression can cause you to forgo your oral care all together.
Anxiety and depression medications may also cause dry mouth. The lack of salvia means that food particles, plaque and bacteria aren’t naturally getting rinsed from your teeth and can increase your chance of cavities.
What You Can Do
Now that we know about the connection of oral and mental health, what can we do? If you’re experiencing anxiety or embarrassment from your mouth, seek dental help. Fifty-nine percent of people state cost as the main reason they don’t go to the dentist, but there are affordable ways to get help:
- Find a dental school in your area; costs are much lower than private practices
- Look for dental hygiene training programs for free or low-cost routine dental care
- See if your community health center offers low-cost dental care
- Check to see if your dentist offers a payment plan or financing option
If you’re suffering from anxiety and depression and it’s impacting your teeth, talk with your doctor or behavior therapist about stress management and coping skills. Be sure to keep your dentist in the loop, too. They can help you deal with the toll anxiety and depression take on your oral health by providing night guards to prevent grinding or prescription toothpaste for increased cavity prevention.
There is a real connection between oral and mental health. If you’re looking to fix your teeth, regardless if for cosmetic reasons or pain relief, contact our office today. We’re here to help you improve your oral health and increase your well-being.