Our mental and oral health are equally important despite how frequently we neglect one another. Whilst both are vital for our overall health, there has been evidence of a significant correlation between mental and oral health.
As much as their likeness may seem vague, many areas of concern arise for people suffering from oral and/or mental health as they eventually collide and become products of each other.
Understanding this correlation can be justified from either side, how poor mental health can result in poor oral hygiene, and the latter. Knowing the implications and early signs of either of these symptoms might just help people avoid falling into a toxic cycle.
Poor Mental Health Increasing
The poor mental health of the population has been on the decline, especially since the pandemic sent people into isolation and also the pressures of social media having an impact on how people perceive themselves.
Recent studies have shown that 1 in 5 people have experienced suicidal thoughts, which is a staggering amount considering the lack of conversations that are held regarding self-harm and mental health amongst the people around us.
With this, we tend to see experiences of anxiety and depression, which ultimately manifests themselves into poor self-care and dental hygiene habits.
This lack of motivation to look after ourselves is what ultimately can drive our oral hygiene into dangerous states, much like our mental health.
What Oral Health Says About Mental Health
As mentioned, oral and mental health can work cohesively; therefore,, if we see poor mental health in individuals, we might expect their mental health to deteriorate.
The state of oral health can be a result of many things, such as genetics, or the poor habits might be self-inflicted, such as heavy smoking. This smoking can ultimately lead to gum disease and stained teeth, leading to a lack of self-confidence and ultimately inducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
On the other side of things, people with anxiety are susceptible to grinding their teeth, leading to reduced enamel and possible displacement of their teeth.
People who are trapped in this cycle often continue these habits as a self-soothing method when in reality, they are worsening both their oral and mental health.
However, things do not always have to be so glum, as they can be improved as much as they can deteriorate.
Telltale Signs You Are At Risk
If you are someone who is experiencing spells of anxiety and depression, the lethargic feeling of not wanting to do your normal daily tasks will feel familiar.
This will likely result in you skipping on brushing your teeth. Also, anxiety might leave you not wanting to closely inspect your teeth for problems, which can lead to much more serious problems developing further down the line.
Here are just a few telltale signs that signal you need to seek help for your oral and mental health:
Missing oral hygiene – Skipping on brushing your teeth is a sign that your mental and oral health is deteriorating. Falling out of this habit due to a lack of motivation is a common side effect of poor mental health.
This also might be associated with other behaviors, such as not showering and not cleaning your environment.
Avoiding smiling – If the insecurities associated with your oral appearance stop you from smiling in social settings, you risk worsening your mental and oral health.
Anxiety about visiting the dentist – Avoiding any visits to the dentist due to dental anxiety and insecurity is a sign that you are falling into a bad place. As much as the dentist is not an enjoyable experience for a lot of people, it should not be avoided altogether.
Binge eating/purging – A lot of mental health problems can also manifest themselves into binge eating problems, which ultimately can severely affect your oral health.
Purging food is especially dangerous for people who develop bulimia, as the acids that are in our stomachs can break down enamel which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.
How You Can Begin To Manage Both
If you are suffering from poor mental health and oral hygiene, you can begin to improve them today. Here are just a few of the habits you might consider implementing:
Maintain A Healthy Diet
Or diets can have direct effects on our mental and oral health. The foods we digest can ultimately determine our overall health, so making sure we are eating a balanced diet is essential for maintaining this.
Falling into a bad mental state can leave us binge eating o the most caloric foods that lack the basic minerals and nutrients we need to survive, so take-out food is just not going to cut it.
Comfort eating is a quick way to further decline into poor mental and oral health. Start aiming to maintain a healthy diet, and see the beneficial impact on your oral and mental health.
Create An Oral Hygiene Routine
There is no shame in falling out of your oral hygiene routine. Everything can get the better of us when our mental health is in decline. Take things slowly, and start by simply brushing your teeth in the morning and right before bed.
Doing this at the start and end of your day will make things easier. Brushing your teeth should be done as soon as you leave your bed, and do not get back into bed in the evening until you have brushed them. It will form the habit and prove that you can stick to things even when you do not feel like it.
Visit The Dentist With A Loved One
If your oral hygiene has been neglected for some time, the safest thing to do would be to visit the dentist. There could be many underlying issues that have not been seen, which you have been avoiding.
It will feel overwhelming to come to terms with the current state of your oral hygiene, but the process can be much more comforting when a friend joins you.
You might receive news of possible required work, such as full dental implants, or you may need a simple clean. Ask a trusted family member or friend to join you at the dentist to support you with the process.
Finally, when your mental and oral health seems to be in ruins, you need to start incorporating a mindfulness routine.
Many people who have never experienced mindfulness often turn their noses up at the thought, but it has been scientifically proven that mindful practices such as walks in nature improve your mental well-being.
Find something to add to your daily routines, such as meditation or reading, to take your mind off ruminating thoughts and slowly see improvements in your mental and oral health.
Amy Jones is a freelance health and wellness writer. She loves researching and writing about new health trends and dental topics, such as full dental implants, as well as keeping up to date with the latest health news.