The Impact Of Poor Mental Health On Our Dental Health

Man with fragmenting oral health

Our concept of mental health has had dramatic shifts over the last hundred years, shifting from a supernatural and physical-ailment approach to an understanding of our cognitive behaviors according to our experiences. Because of today’s modern approach to mental health, researchers are also looking into how mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD contribute to our physical health. For dentists, this also means looking into how these mental illnesses impact our ability to care for our teeth. As mental health becomes more visible every day, many studies have begun looking into the connection between mental illness and oral problems such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. 


Behavior, Mental Health, and Our Teeth 

Mental illness contributes to how we often perceive our teeth and gums, and observing this relationship means also looking at how people respond to situations regarding their oral health. Studies from the Rhode Island Department of Health look into how high school students observe their teeth and gums and how their mental health can become affected by their teeth, and found that: 

  • According to the study, 21% of students felt self-conscious or embarrassed because of their teeth or mouth within the last 12 months. 
  • Within these groups of students, 29% of them felt hopeless and sad, and about 15% of these students considered suicide. 
  • Their cross-section analysis revealed that their perceptions about their teeth and gums contributed towards those feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. 

While the study did not look into the severity of those dental problems, other studies, including ones from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, cite that patients with mental illnesses are less likely to care for their physical health. The study cites that poor mental health management can also lead to drug misuse, poor dieting, smoking, and poor oral hygiene as a result. In many ways, oral problems such as gum disease and tooth decay become more relevant to those with mental health issues due to how these illnesses impact people’s lives on a daily basis, and that neglecting physical health can also contribute to poorer mental health as a result, including: 

  • How alcohol and drug abuse can lead to an increased risk of infections and decay
  • Self-neglect and poor self-image contribute to cavities and unhealthy malocclusions
  • Eating disorders contribute to poor nutrition, leading to enamel erosion and tooth decay
  • Damaged gums and abrasions resulting from obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Medications for mental illnesses leading to unhealthy oral side effects

Oral Health Through Mental Healthcare

From the smallest insecurity to the largest symptoms, finding ways of managing mental health is a vital aspect of good health. It’s important to know that speaking with your dentist can help you care for both your teeth and your mind. Having regular exams and cleanings can allow you to talk to your dentist about any insecurities with your teeth, and your dentist can work with you to find solutions that will help you feel better about your smile.

Alireza Movassaghi, D.D.S and Other Dentist Torrance Dental Associates is proud to be the home of Dr. Alireza Movassaghi, a USC School of Dentistry Graduate with 30 years of experience. His mission is to expand access to dental care throughout the Los Angeles area. When not engaged in providing expert dental care for his patients, he's taking in the latest soccer game and enjoying fine cars.
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