Studies had proven that there is a parallel connection between mental and oral health. And yes, poor mental health greatly impacts on having higher risk for oral health complications. Studies show that poor mental health can take its toll not only in the mind, but essentially in the body. People with higher level of stress, anxiety, and depression have higher risk of having gum diseases and tooth decays in the long run. The lifestyle and socioeconomic status of these people who are experiencing mental illness also play a substantial role in affecting their oral health.
Eating Disorder Affects the Teeth
Anorexia or bulimia, for instance, is a known eating disorder. This is simply not an eating disorder. This is a mental illness, and it has been proven that people suffering from such illness are more likely to experience dental cavities. An explanation to this is that an eating disorder drastically impacts to nutritional deficiencies, which can further affect the strength and health of the teeth. The gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may also bleed easily without proper nutrition. Throwing up frequently can affect the teeth too due to the vomit’s acidity.
Comorbidities Risk for Periodontal Diseases
People with mental illness can also have comorbidities. In medicine, this is described as a condition wherein there is a presence of one or more additional conditions often co-occurring with a primary condition. In layman’s term, this is when complications occur. This condition could be depressing. People experiencing comorbidities more likely to overuse or misuse alcohol, smoke, or use illicit drugs which can eventually lead to cavities, long term tooth decay, and breaking down the enamel that protects the teeth. The risk for periodontal diseases such as oral cancers also
increase with an excessive use of these substances.
Medications Can Dry Mouth
Xerostomia, is a condition wherein the mouth becomes dry due to some medications that treat mental illnesses such as depression or psychosis. This condition interrupts the production of saliva, which can cause difficulties in chewing, swallowing, and even tasting. Low saliva flow can lead to developing gum diseases and other oral infections.
Neglect of Oral Hygiene
Lastly, people experiencing mental illness more likely to neglect oral hygiene procedures and necessary dental care which leads to a poor oral health. Some might neglect or avoid it intentionally; others do not have a choice but to opt out due to financial constraints. A person experiencing a mental disorder is probably not able to work and without a job, he/she also does not get some entitled benefits of a working citizen such as medical insurance and any other funds to pay for a routine dental care.
This correlation between mental and oral health is well-proven and built. It is also concluded as, cyclical. A mental disorder of a person will certainly impinge on different aspects – his body, his mind, and then his socioeconomic status. But his poor oral health will undoubtedly be manifested. Gum diseases, tooth decays and cavities will be there. This leads then to a person’s low self-esteem to take his spot in the world due to his mouth disorder. And when this happens, again mental illness such as high level of anxiety and depression kicks in. A condition known as dental phobia, wherein a person’s anxiety about dental treatment is high also contributes to having poor oral health and episodically, impacts his mental health. The occurrence of this phobia may either due to an unpleasant experience, perhaps because of pain or discomfort. Dental avoidance can lead to an even worse condition – having complications in other areas of the body.