What is the first thing you notice about another person? For most people, it’s their smile…or lack of one. From a broad grin to a deep-seated frown, you can tell a lot about a person’s mood and condition from a quick glance. But how does your oral health affect your mental health?
Not only is your smile the first impression you make on those around you, it’s also an indicator of your overall health. Poor oral health is closely linked to physical conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and it’s also tied to mental health conditions.
How Are Mental Health Conditions Linked to Oral Health?
It may be difficult to see a link between mental health and your mouth, but poor or worsening oral health is often an indicator of underlying issues. If somebody fails to care for their teeth and gums, especially if it’s a new development, there’s usually a reason for it.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect many people, and an indicator is a decline in oral health. These individuals forget to brush, floss, and use mouthwash, which can result in cavities and gum disease.
Eating disorders are another category of mental illness linked to oral health. Poor diet and/or frequent vomiting can lead to tooth erosion, so it’s common to experience cavities and even tooth loss.
Individuals with mood disorders can also suffer from poor oral health, largely due to self-neglect, but sometimes related to medications. For those who use alcohol and tobacco as self-medication and coping mechanisms, this can be even worse.
Bruxism is another condition closely tied to mental health. Teeth grinding can be a sign of anxiety and stress. If you suspect you suffer from bruxism, it’s important to speak to your dentist to create a plan to protect your teeth, jaw, and gums.
Building a Good Oral Health Routine
It’s not too late to dedicate more attention to your oral health. Adopting a daily oral care routine is beneficial for your mental health in many ways, and it doesn’t take much effort on your part.
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste. Many people appreciate regular brushing times as part of their morning and evening schedules.
- Floss daily to remove debris your brush can’t reach.
- Try adding mouthwash to help wash away food particles.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit foods that are bad for your teeth.
- If you use tobacco, quit as soon as possible.
- See your dentist regularly for check-ups and teeth cleanings. Make sure you notify your dentist about medications you’re taking that could impact your oral health.