The relationship between dental health and mental health
There is a strong link between mental health and issues that can arise in oral health and this is often due to the fact that physical health is frequently neglected by those who are struggling with mental health problems. However, the flip side is also true - people who are struggling with physical health can often fail to notice, or deal with, mental health problems. This can become a self perpetuating cycle in which both oral health and mental wellbeing are neglected.
What does the research say?
Plenty of time has been dedicated to researching the links between oral health and wellbeing. For those already struggling with mental illness there may be a number of consequences when it comes to oral health, including:
● Self-neglect .Patients struggling with mental health may neglect simple self care routines when it comes to oral health. This can result in gum disease and poor oral health that leads to tooth decay.
● Abuse of alcohol and other substances, such as tobacco. There is a clear link between conditions such as depression and abuse of alcohol, which may lead to tooth erosion and decay.
● Acid damage. For those who struggle with an eating disorder, such as bulimia, there may be some difficult oral side effects. The acid from vomiting, for example, can increase the chances of suffering much more tooth decay.
● Tooth and gum damage. Some conditions can cause patients to do damage to their own teeth and gums. Bipolar disorder, for example, may result in over-brushing that can cause dental abrasions or gingival lacerations.
There are also a number of ways in which poor physical health can affect mental wellbeing too:
● Social anxiety. For those who have poor oral health there can be a number of ways in which this may trigger something like social anxiety. This could be a condition such as bad breath or the result of poor dental health that affects speech.
● Self-esteem and self-image. Problems with oral health can result in tooth loss - patients who have a mental illness are 2.8times more likely to have lost all their teeth, which can have a big impact on self-esteem and self-image.
● Issues with physical confidence. Other consequences of poor oral health can also damage confidence, including the fact that patients with a mental illness have statistically higher rates of tooth decay and discomfort.
● Physical damage. Issues such as anxiety can trigger physical responses that do damage to teeth - for example, there has been a 59% rise in bruxism (teeth grinding)since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a strong link between poor oral health and poor mental health and these are just some of the ways in which it can have an impact.
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