How Can Oral Health Impact Your Mental and Physical Health?
When people think of oral health, they often think of brushing their teeth twice a day to avoid cavities. However, your oral health has far-reaching connections with your overall physical and mental health. Poor dental care can impact your overall well-being, so your dental care regimen should be part of your comprehensive health plan.
The connection between dental and mental health has been studied extensively. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people struggling with mental health were 2.8 times more likely to have lost teeth than anyone in the general population. Poor dental care can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Routine dental care, such as brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist at least twice annually, is essential to mental and physical upkeep. Let’s gain more insight into how oral health impacts your mind and body.
It’s hard not to notice someone’s smile upon meeting them, so dental issues can be a source of embarrassment for many people. Poor oral hygiene can lead to yellow teeth, bad breath, gingivitis, cavities, and missing teeth. These problems can make you feel ashamed or insecure when in public. As advertisements, social media likes, and filtered selfies constantly bombard people, aesthetic dental issues or missing teeth won’t help you feel good about yourself. Poor dental health has been linked with lower self-esteem, which can further impact mental health.
When someone has low esteem, it can lead to problems like stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’re depressed or stressed out you may begin to lax on your dental care which will only worsen existing issues. Taking care of your dental health is a great way to boost self-confidence and break this vicious cycle.
Humans are social creatures, but dental issues can cause people to avoid socializing or engaging in intimate relationships. People with dental problems may feel embarrassed to smile, laugh, and talk in public. Even if you’re friendly or happy internally, never smiling or laughing may wrongly make others think that you may be unapproachable. It can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and poor communication skills.
Relationships with romantic partners and friends aren’t the only ones to suffer. You also have to consider work relationships. It’s rarely enough just to work hard and have talent. You have to be able to get through an interview and deal with people on the job. However, if dental issues like bad breath or discoloration make you anxious or insecure, it could hinder your ability to get a job. That’s why dental care is so important.
If dental issues are preventing someone from engaging with others, they need to find a dental solution that works for them. Dental surgery, dental implants, and dental veneers are just some of the options available.
The Connection to Heart Disease
How does the mouth connect to the heart? Oral health issues can lead to inflammation in the body, which can raise one’s risk of developing a coronary condition. Bacteria that cause dental plaque and dental disease can enter the bloodstream, leading to plaque buildup in blood vessels. This is a condition known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Atherosclerosis is also related to gum disease, which is caused by dental plaque. If dental plaque doesn’t get treated it can lead to periodontal disease, gingivitis, and tooth decay. That’s why dental care is essential to overall health and well-being. The first step in getting rid of plaque is with good brushing and professional dental care.
Despite what you may have thought, your digestion doesn’t start in the stomach. It starts in the mouth! When you chew your food, your teeth break it into smaller particles. This happens through the process of mechanical digestion, which helps ensure that the food is small enough for the stomach to absorb. That’s why you have different types of teeth, such as molars, incisors, and canines, that work to grind and break down food.
If you have damaged or missing teeth, it can affect how well you can chew your food. Ineffective chewing can lead to digestive issues such as indigestion, heartburn, and bloating. If you swallow food in large chunks, the digestive processing time can increase up to 300%. This situation can lead to nutritional deficiencies and an overall decrease in energy levels.
Bloating and indigestion can also result from dental bacteria and plaque. Bacteria in the mouth produce acid, which can wear down enamel and cause dental decay. When untreated, dental plaque can travel to the small intestine, where it can cause bloating and indigestion. When constantly bloated, it’ll be hard to remain active, energetic, and productive.
Poor oral health can limit your diet choices. As mentioned, your teeth are a necessity for chewing and grinding food. With missing or damaged teeth, eating healthy and raw crunchy foods like apples or carrots will be hard to do. You may also be unable to enjoy chewy foods like steak or salmon. Instead, you may be limited to a soft diet, without the benefit of more nutritious options.
While it’s possible to blend food, this isn’t the most appetizing way to maintain a regular adult human diet. Eating more blended and processed foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies. It means you’ll be missing out on necessary vitamins from a variety of nutritious foods that supply iron, calcium, and other minerals.
Dental Care and Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious health concern that can lead to dental issues. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing dental problems such as gum disease, dental cavities, and dry mouth. Poor dental care can lead to dental decay, increasing the risk of developing diabetes complications.
If you have or are at risk for diabetes, dental care is essential. Practice proper dental hygiene including brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash. Regular dental check-ups can also help detect any dental issues early and prevent them from worsening.
Oral Health in Pregnant Women
The oral health of pregnant women is important. Dental plaque can enter the bloodstream and pass on to the baby. This transference can lead to adverse health conditions in the newborn. Plus, dental plaque can cause gum disease and dental decay in pregnant women. To prevent dental problems, pregnant women must pay extra attention to dental hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once should be standard. Schedule more dental office visits during this time, as issues can arise during pregnancy.
As mentioned, the condition of your teeth affects how you eat and what you can eat. If pregnant women can’t eat a range of nutritious food, it’ll be harder for them to get daily vitamins and minerals. Such poor nutrition will affect their health and the baby. Expecting women should eat food high in calcium and phosphorus to help the baby’s bones, teeth, and other body parts develop properly.
Pain Management Concerns
If you have dental problems, it can lead to chronic dental pain. Chronic dental pain will not only make it more difficult to eat, but it can also interfere with day-to-day activities. Additionally, dental pain can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. If dental pain becomes too much, it can make it hard to concentrate and focus on tasks. Lack of focus can lead to a decrease in productivity, both professionally and personally. Additionally, dental pain can be difficult to manage with standard over-the-counter medications.
Whatever you do, don’t risk your physical health by resorting to the wrong coping methods like using drugs or alcohol. Instead, dental professionals can provide long-term strategies for managing dental pain at the source.
Dental Care and Cancer
Having dental issues can also increase the risk of developing cancer. Poor dental hygiene increases the chances of certain types of cancer, such as esophageal, throat, and mouth cancers. Dental plaque can contain certain toxins that can increase the risk of these cancers. Consistent visits with local dental professionals can help reduce the risk of developing dental-related cancers. Additionally, dental care can help detect issues in the early stages and stop them from worsening.
Not only can mouth bacteria travel to your bloodstream and affect your heart, but they can also go up to your brain. According to Harvard Health, the bacteria that causes gingivitis can also contribute to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The bacteria is called Porphyromonas gingivalis, and it has been tied to Alzheimer’s in certain studies. The destructive enzymes released by the bacteria can kill nerve cells. As nerve cells in the brain die, so does memory. As researchers continue to see if they can block such enzymes, it’s up to dental professionals and patients to continue practicing good dental hygiene.
Teeth grinding (or Bruxism) is another dental issue that can occur due to mental health issues. Too much anxiety or stress may cause you to start grinding your teeth at night. This nervous issue can cause dental pain, headaches, and even jaw joint pain. Bruxism can also cause dental enamel to wear down, leading to dental decay and erosion.
If dental professionals suspect Bruxism, they’ll typically suggest preventive measures like dental guards. Dental guards work to protect your teeth from further damage due to bruxism or nighttime grinding. Although dental guards are not a cure for Bruxism, they can help protect teeth from dental damage.
In addition to protecting teeth, a dental guard can also protect your sleep. Teeth grinding can cause sleep disturbances, leading to fatigue and difficulty concentrating. If you constantly wake up in the middle of the night due to this issue, your mental and physical health can suffer. Lack of sleep can cause symptoms such as irritability and depression. It can also increase your risk for certain diseases. Even if you have otherwise healthy teeth, your mental state or physical activity could damage them. Dental professionals can provide preventive measures such as dental guards to help protect teeth from further damage due to Bruxism.
Solutions for Oral Health Problems
When you suffer from dental problems, dentists can provide a range of treatments and strategies to help. Solutions like fillings or dental crowns can help strengthen teeth weakened by dental decay and erosion. The earlier you see your dentist, the sooner they can spot decay before it increases. In other words, early detection can result in a simple filling. However, if you wait too long, you may eventually need a root canal and dental crown.
If you’re one of the many people who have dental anxiety, sedation dentistry can also help. Sedation dentistry can help dental patients relax during dental procedures. As a result, dentists are better able to assess and diagnose problems. In extreme cases, they can refer patients to a mental health professional for further assistance.
If you’re teeth are too damaged to save, you can always opt for dental implants. Dental implants have become increasingly popular over recent years, as they help dental patients regain their smile and dental function. Dental implants are a great way to restore dental health, especially if you’re self-conscious due to several missing or badly damaged teeth. The process for implants can take some time, but once everything is complete, you will have a beautiful set of teeth that you can be proud to show off. No one will know you have implants unless you tell them, since they look and function like natural teeth.
Oral health is more than just a matter of dental hygiene; it’s an important component of overall physical and mental stability. Poor dental care can have serious implications on beyond your mouth, so don’t take potential issues lightly. Regular dental visits are essential for catching any signs of poor dental health early. Dental care in the form of oral surgery, implants, and dental veneers are some solutions for any oral health issues. Make sure you trust your professional oral care in the right hands. Contact our local team at any time for a consultation. We offer a range of dentistry care to help patients protect their smile and overall health.