Your oral health has an impact on your entire well-being as well as your mental health.

If you have good oral hygiene you can avoid medical conditions like diabetes and heart attack.

Similarly, if you have good mental health you will take care of your dental health.

However, if you don’t, then both will suffer.

The reverse is also true, poor dental health can cause you to suffer mental health issues.

If you unaware of this fact keep reading this article to know how your mental and oral health suffers together.

woman stress eating because of mental health illness

How Mental Health Impacts Oral Health?

When you have poor mental health then you may stop taking care of your hygiene as well as you did before.

Mental health problems include anxiety disorders, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression which can result in hopelessness.

Old and Young people experience mental health issues because of their life events and this causes them to give up on many things.

That leads to neglect among other things such as:

  • Drug, Smoking and Alcohol Abuse

Unfortunately for some people, recreational drugs, smoking and alcohol abuse are coping mechanisms against their depression, stress and anxiety.

Alcohol abuse damages your liver but can also damage your oral well-being by causing gum disease.

In certain cases, you may also develop oral cancer over time.

Smoking and alcohol will cause your teeth to stain and turn yellow.

You may require a teeth whitening treatment to get rid of those stubborn stains.

  • Reduced Appetite or Eating More Sugary Foods

When in stress, depression and anxiety, the response regarding your appetite and food can be of two types:

*Loss of appetite

*Binge eating of more sugary foods

If your appetite decreases then you will have poor nutrition.

This results in a decrease in calcium levels. Calcium coats the tooth enamel and protects it from wear and tear.

Hence, a lack of it harms the surface of the tooth enamel.

Binge eating of sugary foods and drinks can result in cavity and decay.

Yes, they do make you feel slightly better but soon that goes away and you will have lots of bacteria inside your mouth.

Mental health illnesses also consist of eating disorders such as Bulimia nervosa which makes people throw up after they binge eat.

People do it to control weight however, it also damages the teeth causes dental erosion because of the acids in the vomit, which damages the throat and saliva in the mouth.

It lowers saliva levels resulting in dry mouth.

  • Neglecting Oral Care

The mental health condition, depression generates hopelessness and unwillingness to do anything.

Hence, people with depression find it hard to wake up from their bed, take a bath and even brush and floss.

This results in more oral hygiene problems and the buildup of bacteria and plaque.

This tiredness and fatigue also reduce your energy.

When you have no energy you do not make an effort therefore you will also compromise your nutrition by not eating well.

Hence bad oral care and poor nutrition arise from neglect.

Furthermore, when you have bad nutrition and depression then you can develop burning mouth syndrome.

It is a strong burning sensation felt on the roof of the mouth, the tongue and the insides of the cheeks.

Even if some people do not neglect their oral care, they can still have this condition due to depression.

woman feeling dental anxiety in the dentist's office

  • Avoiding The Dentist Due to Anxiety and Pain

Anxiety forms fear, nervousness and inner turmoil.

If you suffer from it you may avoid leaving the house and going to other places.

This can also lead to dental anxiety where you will deliberately avoid visiting the dentist for your yearly checkups or in need.

In fact, people who do not suffer from any mental health disorder can also have dental anxiety and be fearful of sitting on the dentist’s chair.

Another thing that arises fear is the feeling of being more pain-sensitive when you are anxious or depressed.

This will also keep you away from the dentist and as a result, will increase your dental health problems.

  • Use Of Medicines For Mental Health Conditions

Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines can decrease the saliva in your mouth.

Hence, you can get an oral condition known as Dry Mouth or Xerostomia.

Other antipsychotics and mood stabilizer drugs also have side effects which can lead to oral infections.

Hence, the dry mouth will not produce enough saliva to wash off the acids and bacteria which can accumulate over time as plaque.

This puts you at risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease.

  • Excessive Brushing

Bipolar disorder causes the patient to brush extensively and excessively.

This over-brushing can harm the gums, lead to dental abrasions and gingival lacerations.

If you suffer from it then you may damage your tooth enamel because of this vigorous brushing which will cause cavities and yellow teeth.

Furthermore, people with this disorder get lithium treatments which increase dry mouth and stomatitis.

Hence, your mouth feels sore and dry which can lead the way to several oral infections.

This opposite situation also holds true.

Your oral health can affect your mental health. Let’s read about it below.

woman with bad breath affecting her mental health

Oral Health Affecting Mental Health

Bad Breath 

If you do not take care of your oral hygiene then you can develop bad breath.

Improper brushing and flossing will not clear the bacteria, especially on the tongue and cause your breath to smell bad.

However certain medications can also cause your mouth to become dry and the lack of saliva leads to bacteria accumulation that releases a foul smell.

Therefore, if you smell bad then it can cause social anxiety whereby you will always worry about someone noticing your breath.

It can also lower your self-esteem and you will worry about being in public situations.

Imperfect Teeth and Speech 

If you have imperfections like buck teeth, an overbite, crossbite, misalignment, decay and missing teeth then you are more likely to lose confidence.

All these things affect your appearance hence it can destroy your self-image and esteem.

You can get increasingly conscious about it hence, you may even get anxiety.

You may also try to hide your teeth while talking and smile less frequently.

This can eventually lead you to avoid all social situations.

Did you know that mental illness patients are more likely to lose all their teeth than others?

A whopping likelihood of 2.8 percent.

This definitely has an impact on their esteem and confidence.

Also if you have crooked or misaligned teeth then you are more likely to have speech impediments.

If your speech is not clear due to imperfect dental health then this will make you anxious in any social and professional situation.

Anxiety weighs you down and can affect the way you see and feel about yourself.

woman taking a walk in nature for coping with depression and anxiety

Management and Coping

You should start thinking about coping with mental health illnesses in a healthy way.

It is good to bring some lifestyle changes however if you find yourself in a rut, you should first consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Through continuous sessions, you may see a few changes in your lifestyle that can help you cope with your illness well.

Practicing healthy activities can also make you feel better. These include:

  • Exercise
  • Socializing
  • Mindfulness
  • Engaging in your habits

You should exercise for about 150 minutes a week.

It is good for both mind and body hence it also improves your physical health along with your mental health.

If you do not want to start with excessive exercises like cardio or yoga, you can simply start with brisk walking.

Young adults can walk for at least 15 minutes a day and steadily increase that time.

Walking will also compel you to go out in nature and appreciate it which will also encourage the presence of mind.

Hence, walking will help you to establish mindfulness.

Appreciate your present, be aware of your surroundings, take note of sounds, smells and sights around you.

This can help you to appreciate what you have in the present without worrying bot the past or future.

It can also make you much calmer and alert.

Another good practice is to socialize.

It may be tough for you as someone with mental conditions but you do need a support system that can offer practical advice and decrease your loneliness.

You do not necessarily need to form new bonds but you can enhance your existing ones.

Talk to your partner, go out with an old friend, meet friends and family or visit your grandparents.

Furthermore, engaging in volunteer work and your habits also helps you to stay present.

Practice new hobbies and socialize with the people you like to cope with your mental illness.

woman with mental health illness taking care of oral hygiene

Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Poor oral health and hygiene can cause you to isolate hence worsening your mental health.

Take steps to improve your oral health gradually.

No matter how you feel, wake up, brush 2 times and floss daily.

Make sure that you at least do the basics.

Also, whenever you feel the urge to binge eat, resist it.

Consult your doctor if you have bulimia and want to vomit after binge eating.

However, if stress makes you eat more then find the cause of it and reduce your daily sugar intake actively.

Also, quit smoking and alcohol as they can exacerbate the problems in your mouth.

Focus only on healthy eating, drinking and indulging in healthy habits.

If you have a dry mouth due to antidepressants then cope with the bad breath and the dryness by chewing xylitol gums and mints.

Xylitol stimulates saliva inside the mouth and so does the chewing action.

You can also keep a mouth spray with you at all times in social situations.

Furthermore, remember to visit your dentist twice a year.

Your regular dental visit can avoid any oral infections and problems from growing and affecting your well-being.

Final Thoughts 

Mental health and oral health are very closely connected.

One impacts the other and you can be affected by both problems at once.

Hence, you should try to make an effort to improve and use these management and coping strategies for your health and well-being.

Solely for yourself!