Psychology and Oral Health: Five Ways They are Connected

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Oral health is essential, and many people know that. After all, people’s teeth are one of the first things people notice when they smile. However, you may not know that oral health is also a window into your psychological health. Here are five ways psychology and oral health are connected:

Depression and Poor Oral Hygiene

Depression is a severe mental illness that can harm every area of your life, including your oral hygiene. People who are depressed may neglect their appearance, including their teeth and gums. Suppose you or someone you know has poor oral hygiene and is also showing other signs of depression, such as withdrawing from social activities or experiencing changes in appetite. In that case, it’s vital to seek professional help.

Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is real and more common than you might think. People with dental anxiety often avoid the dentist, which can lead to gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can cause tooth loss if left untreated. Treatments available for dental anxiety can help you feel more relaxed during dental procedures. Here are some of them:

Exposure Therapy

Sometimes, the best way to deal with fear is to face it head-on. That’s the idea behind exposure therapy, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. With exposure therapy, you gradually work your way up from less anxiety-provoking situations to more anxiety-provoking ones. So, if your dental anxiety is severe, your therapist might start by having you sit in the dentist’s office. Then, you might look at pictures of dental procedures or watch videos of them. Eventually, you’ll work up to having actual dental procedures done.

Systematic Desensitization

Systematic desensitization is another type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that can be helpful for people with dental anxiety. With this therapy, you work with a therapist to create a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking situations. Then, you use relaxation techniques to help you calm down while working your way up the hierarchy.

Eating Disorders and Tooth Decay

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses that can have several physical consequences, including tooth decay. The acids in vomit can damage tooth enamel, and constant purging can lead to dehydration, which reduces saliva production. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with an eating disorder before it starts. Here are some ways to do that.

Practice Good Eating Habits

If you’ve been binge eating due to stress, it’s good to partition your meals into smaller, more manageable ones. Eating slowly and mindfully is vital, so you’re more aware of when you’re full. Furthermore, you must ensure you get enough nutrients by eating a varied and balanced diet.

Make Time for Relaxation

It’s essential to find healthy ways to deal with stress so that you don’t turn to food. Some suitable relaxation methods include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. Many treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, and support groups.

Oral health and Social Anxiety

Having bad breath, yellow teeth, or the lack of teeth can all be embarrassing and make social interactions difficult—especially if you’re already shy or anxious around other people. One of the best ways to deal with this is by getting any tooth you’ve lost replaced.

Replacing Teeth

People who’ve lost their teeth often feel embarrassed about their appearance, making social interactions more difficult. Tooth replacement services, such as dental implants or dentures, can help improve the way you look and feel. Not only will tooth replacement make you look better, but it can also boost your confidence and make social situations easier.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

In addition to replacing your teeth, practicing good oral hygiene is essential. This means brushing and flossing regularly, as well as using mouthwash. These habits will help keep your mouth healthy and prevent bad breath.

Stress and TMJ

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. TMJ disorder is a condition that causes pain in the joint and muscles surrounding it. Stress is a common trigger for TMJ disorder because it causes people to clench their jaws or grind their teeth (a condition known as bruxism). If you’re experiencing jaw pain or headaches, talk to your dentist about whether TMJ disorder could be the cause. Some treatments available can help relieve TMJ disorder symptoms and prevent further damage to the joint.

The mouth is often one of the most distinguishing factors of a person’s face. Their oral health can be a window into our psychological health, so taking care of our teeth and gums is essential for aesthetic and mental health. As a result, you can avoid potential problems down the road and keep your smile healthy and bright.

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