Of course, a gleaming, pearly smile doesn’t guarantee positive mental health. You never know what someone is going through and how much effort a person has to put in to hide the complexities going on inside them. However, there does exist positive evidence that good dental indeed correlates with better mental health – and it makes so much sense when you read it…
Conditions known to impact oral health
The Oral Health Foundation cites several mental health conditions that each affect dental or oral health in different ways. These include anxiety, eating disorders and ‘over-vigorous’ brushing actions related to bipolar disorder. The organisation also highlights the long-term neglect of teeth, which could be a by-product of depression, self-harm, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive-disorders and panic attacks.
That’s not to suggest that all people with such mental health conditions also suffer from poor dental health. However, it goes to show how challenging some people, potentially including individuals who you didn’t know suffered from a mental health condition, can find it to maintain optimum dental health.
Other underlying conditions
A study in Australia found that diseases including diabetes and dementia were also found to have strong links to poor dental health. Research published in the Journal of Dental Education also discovered that obese individuals, who are more likely to have diabetes, are associated with having fewer teeth than people with normal body weight. According to Express Dentist, 87% of people say that poor oral health has a negative impact on life.
So, the link here is clear. Problems, both physical and mental, can contribute to poor dental health over time. Of course, with diabetes, the disease is strongly linked to poor diet, particularly in the case of people with Type 2 diabetes, and we all know how a poor diet could negatively affect our teeth. (After all, that’s where all the food goes!)
The impact of dental health on wellbeing
Of course, as alluded to above, having sparkling teeth and healthy gums is no substitute for good physical or mental health – but it can contribute to general wellbeing nonetheless. For instance, with healthy teeth, gums and clean breath, we can feel more comfortable when socialising, while we’re at work and even when we’re exercising and breathing heavily, open-mouthed.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we are all, in our way, designed to be visually motivated. Most people, hopefully, are non-judgmental anyway, but that doesn’t mean we don’t naturally pick up on things like crooked or damaged teeth or bad breath. Our reaction may only be a cursory glance, for a split second – but that look could do some serious psychological harm to someone who’s currently self-conscious.
This brings us to the key reason that dental health plays a part in our overall mental health. Whether we’re the sort of person who never goes to the dentist or we regularly visit a top dentist in London for advice, we’re also designed to be aware of how people perceive us at all times. It’s one of the reasons we choose our clothes, exercise, get our hair cut and even use social media.
Ultimately, this is all going on around us, and being processed inside us, constantly, for our entire lives. Having good dental health in place is one less thing to worry about, as we journey through this strange old’ life together.