EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED How Your Oral and Mental Health Link Together
Our bodies are made up of many systems working together to keep us functional and healthy. It’s so complex that even scientists don’t understand how all of it works. But we do know that our health is a whole-body experience, and ignoring one aspect of our wellness will often lead to other problems down the line. Oral health is no exception. For example, poor dental health can contribute to cardiovascular disease, and diabetes can lead to gum disease. Still, most people don’t know that their oral and mental health are linked. Researchers have found that people who suffer from mental illnesses are more likely to develop oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, experts have identified several reasons for the apparent connection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 280 million people across the globe are affected by depression. That’s about 5% of the adult population. Depression is more than just sadness, and it impacts people’s ability to think clearly and engage in regular activities. Oral care routines often fall by the wayside as a result, along with dental visits. This neglect of regular mouth maintenance can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Meanwhile, anxiety can make social interactions terrifying, and sufferers may have difficulty scheduling and attending dental appointments. Additionally, many people have a phobia of dentists that causes them to postpone care. Due to this anxiety or fear, oral health issues can go untreated and significantly worsen.
There are still more connections. People with eating disorders may experience dental erosion or low calcium levels that affect their teeth. Pain is a risk factor for depression, so existing oral pain can spark or worsen mental health problems. And while more research is needed, a 2019 study found a possible genetic link between depression and oral health conditions. If you’re struggling, you need to protect your mental and physical health. Talk to your doctor about what you’ve been experiencing, and be open to their recommendations. Treating your mind well will lead to better health and perhaps a happier and longer life. In addition to this, don’t forget to include your dentist in your plans for full-body health. They’re not trained mental health professionals, but they can provide helpful strategies to help you maintain your dental health while seeking treatment for your mental health as well. Be sure to tell your dentist about any medication you’re taking. Side effects from antidepressants can include dry mouth or teeth grinding, and your dentist can help you minimize the damage. Whatever you’re going through, it’s crucial to keep your entire health team engaged. Physicians, dentists, and therapists all have specialized roles, but outcomes are better when each specialty has the complete picture and can work together. Keep the lines of communication open — and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
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