We may only consider our bodies’ physical condition and function when we think about health.
But those aren’t the only vital pieces in the wellness puzzle. Changes in oral health and mental well-being affect our overall wellness—if any of these pieces are slightly out of place, the others are likely to slip. Let’s take a look at how all the pieces fit together and explore some suggestions about how to manage your dental health when you’re struggling with your mental health.
How are Mental Health and Dental Health Connected?
Mental health and dental health are more closely connected than most of us realize.
On the most basic level, maintaining a healthy smile is good for self-esteem. For a lot of people, healthy-looking teeth provide a confidence boost. When you’re feeling well enough physically and mentally to maintain your dental health, it shows. It’s easier to remember to brush and floss every day and motivate yourself to make and keep regular dentist appointments when your mental health is solid.
Maintaining oral hygiene when you’re struggling with mental health issues is more complicated. Certain mental health conditions can make it more challenging to care for or about your teeth. No two people experience exactly the same symptoms, but it isn’t unusual for physical and dental health to decline when mental health issues arise.
Does Mental Health Affect Dental Hygiene?
As previously mentioned, if one piece of the wellness puzzle is out of place, the other pieces slip, too. So mental health struggles can definitely affect dental hygiene.
For example, people who experience depression may not be motivated to care for their teeth. They may skip regular brushing and flossing, allowing calculus buildup and tooth decay over time. Or, they may self-medicate with sugary or nutrient-deficient foods, alcohol, or tobacco products, all of which contribute to tooth decay.
Conversely, some people who have depression may not have an appetite at all. Not eating can lead to malnutrition, which prevents teeth from getting the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy.
People who struggle with anxiety may avoid visiting the dentist altogether. Reluctance to see a dentist can negatively impact dental health as minor issues like calculus build-up or potential cavities will go untreated, potentially causing more severe problems in the future.
Patients who experience OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) may be uncomfortable visiting the dentist out of fear that the facility isn’t clean enough. On the other hand, some people with OCD may engage in extreme dental care at home. Over-brushing and brushing or flossing too hard can cause gum recession and wear on tooth enamel.
Sometimes medications used to treat certain mental health conditions cause side effects like dry mouth. A lack of saliva prevents teeth from properly remineralizing, which can weaken teeth over time.
Ways to Take Care of your Dental Health Amidst Mental Health Struggles
If you’re feeling up for it, talk to your dentist about ways you can maintain your oral health amid mental health struggles. The simplest things you can do for yourself are brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day. Even if you’re only able to get yourself to brush your teeth once a day, you’re making progress.
At Bass Dentistry, we have an in-office therapy dog to assist patients who have anxiety. Therapy animals are excellent stress-relievers, proven to lower the heart rate and elevate the mood. Our human staff members are friendly and compassionate professionals who take the time to listen to your concerns, answer questions, and talk you through every step of your visit.
Dr. Bass will take the time to listen to your concerns. Make sure to let us know what we can do to make you more comfortable. Sometimes something as simple as noise cancelling headphones and a weighted blanket during a procedure can make a stressful experience much more manageable. We understand that anxiety is often experienced in the dental office, please know that you are not the only one! We have many options to create a positive experience.
Mental health is an integral part of our overall health, and nobody should be ashamed to ask for help. When you’re not maintaining your mental health, the rest of your body suffers as well. We’re here to ensure that your whole body and mind are healthy, strong, and performing their best.
If dental health is important to you and your family, take steps to know how to keep your gums healthy. Gum health is essential to maintaining healthy teeth and overall good dental hygiene. Brush and floss multiple times per day, avoid tobacco products, and use a therapeutic mouthwash.
If you want to know more about maintaining a healthy smile, book an appointment today with Bass Dentistry in Gastonia, NC.