Are Oral Health and Mental Health Connected? Find out

Monday, July 8, 2024
Are Oral Health and Mental Health Connected? Find out

Did you know there are more connections between the mind and the mouth than we think?

According to Dr. Michael Glick, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Integrative Global Oral Health, there are. “Oral health and mental health are intricately connected, with research showing that poor oral health can have negative effects on mental well-being and vice versa,” he explains.

From dry mouth and teeth grinding to social anxiety and periodontal disease, read on to discover what you should know about the oral health impacts of these less well-known mind-mouth connections.

5 Ways Stress & Dental Health Issues Can Combine to Impact You

A man looks uncertain as he speaks with a health professional about his stress & dental health. Oral health and mental health are intricately connected, “affecting a person’s ability to comfortably speak, smile, chew, and swallow, as well as social and psychological attributes that can affect the quality of life,” Dr. Glick says.

The ways these issues connect can include:

  1. Chronic pain. Poor oral health, such as gum disease or tooth decay, can lead to ongoing pain and discomfort in the mouth. This can have a significant impact on a person’s mental well-being, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression. Studies have shown that individuals with poor oral health are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.


    Conversely, people who are suffering from anxiety and depression may be inadvertently grinding their teeth or experiencing jaw pain and headaches resulting from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

  2. Anxiety. The appearance of one’s teeth and mouth can affect mental health. A healthy, attractive smile can boost self-confidence and self-esteem while missing or discolored teeth can lead to embarrassment and self-consciousness. These can impact social interactions and overall quality of life, ultimately affecting mental health.Additionally, people with anxiety or depression tend to neglect self-care tasks like brushing their teeth twice a day. This impacts the overall health of their teeth and their mouth.
  3. Poor oral hygiene. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can lead to poor oral hygiene habits, including neglecting regular brushing and flossing, as well as skipping dental appointments. This can increase the risk of developing oral health problems such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss. It can also result in bad breath (halitosis), which can contribute to social anxiety.
  4. Eating, behavioral, and mental disorders. People with eating disorders may experience worn enamel, tooth decay, or gum disease due to their diet, while certain compulsive disorders might cause obsessive tooth brushing. People with dementia often have trouble with daily routines, including oral hygiene habits. Conversely, there is also growing evidence that gum disease can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Medication. People taking antidepressants or other medications can experience dry mouth because the medicine reduces saliva, the essential fluid that flushes the mouth and washes away food particles and bacteria that can cause gum disease and tooth decay.

How to Recognize—and Treat—the Mental Health and Dental Health Connection

A dentist points to stress dental signs on a teeth model to a patient. The most important thing you can do is to make sure your healthcare providers are aware of your complete health history. “Tell your dentist of mental health issues and your doctor about your oral health,” Dr. Glick recommends. “These discussions can bring issues to light that could otherwise be overlooked.” They also provide a good picture of your overall health, ensure treatments are coordinated, and reduce any side effects.

Recommendations to help improve the impact of mental health and dental health conditions include:

Practicing mindfulness techniques: Reduce anxiety and stress with mindfulness techniques that focus on being fully present in the moment.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Use a coloring book.
  • Meditate.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Smile.
    • Smiling has been found to affect emotion, which can lower stress levels and affect heart health, too.

Eating a healthy diet: You are what you eat is especially true with the mental health and dental health connection.

Keeping good oral hygiene habits: Brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and visit your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings.

Penn Dental Medicine and Our Commitment to Your Overall Health

A young woman in an orange blouse smiles, knowing her mental health and dental health are well. As an important partner in your entire health picture, Penn Dental Medicine’s full suite of services across all fields of dental medicine ensures that your smile and health are as bright as possible.

While we’ve been protecting Philadelphians and other neighbors since 1878, our continuing focus and research are on the future, ensuring that you have the newest techniques, equipment, and treatments available at affordable prices.

Take the first step to ensure your overall health by making an appointment with a PDM dentist today. Click or call 215-898-8965.

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