How Oral Health Impacts Mental Health (and vice versa!)

How Oral Health Impacts Mental Health (and vice-versa!)

As a holistic dentist, I believe the body is more interconnected than we know. Health in one part of the body influences health in all of the others. Oral health has ramifications that extend to affect both body and mind! Learn more about the influences of oral health on mental health (and vice-versa!) below.

Oral Health Affects Mental Health

Poor or neglected oral health can damage feelings of personal value and self-confidence, which is harmful to mental health. Imagine the implications of a depressed patient learning that no one wants to talk to them because of their bad breath. The following results of poor oral health can cause or exacerbate social anxiety, which can lead to depression:

  • Difficulty eating or speaking
  • Poor appearance – yellowing, decaying, or lost teeth
  • Chronic bad breath

Poor oral health has also been correlated with memory loss. Research suggests that the bacteria from oral diseases such as Gingivitis and Periodontitis (gum disease) may travel through the bloodstream to the brain, causing inflammation and destruction of the neurons that can lead to memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. More research needs to be done to confirm the correlation. Read more about the link between oral diseases and physical illnesses in our blog, Why Health Gums Are Important.

Mental Health Affects Oral Health

On the flip side, mental health has significant ramifications for oral health. Patients with severe mental illnesses are 2.7 times more likely to have lost all of their teeth than the general populous. Learn more about how specific mental illnesses correlate with oral health issues below:

Depression & Schizophrenia | Patients who suffer from depression or schizophrenia are more likely to neglect oral hygiene, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

Bipolar Disorder & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) | Patients with bipolar disorder or OCD can be over-zealous with their brushing, flossing, and mouthwashing, which can lead to damaged gums. Also, bipolar patients are often treated with a form of medication that can cause dry mouth or mouth sores. It is easier for bacteria to stick around in a dry mouth, leading to plaque, gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath.

Dementia | Patients who have dementia may forget to take care of their teeth or fail to remember if they have already done so, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

Eating Disorders | Patients with bulimia experience additional acid in the mouth due to vomiting, which can cause tooth decay. Anorexic patients often consume less calcium and other nutrients teeth need to stay strong.

Substance Abuse | Abuse of alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco can cause tooth decay.

Dental Phobia | Dental phobia, or, fear of the dentist, is a diagnosable phobia. Patients with dental phobia are less likely to make visits to the dentist and receive proper dental care on a regular basis as they should.

Also, some of the drugs used to treat mental illnesses include possible side effects of susceptibility to oral bacterial infection.

In summary, oral health and mental health do not exist in silos. They each affect each other in powerful ways. To me, this affirms the importance of holistic dentistry. Whole body health is just as important as the health of an individual part of the body. If you would like to take this approach to your dental care, contact me, Dr. Owen Mandanas.