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May 23, 2024

Does Mental Health Affect Oral Health? Learn 10 Ways How

Does Mental Health Affect Oral Health? 10 Ways Dental Health is Connected to Mental Health

Dr. Lawrence Lesperance of South Gables Dental regularly donates his time to treat the oral health needs of uninsured patients from St. John Bosco Clinic in Miami. For those of you who may not be familiar with the St. John Bosco Clinic, it’s a special place located at Corpus Christi Catholic Church whose volunteer providers have been helping residents without health insurance for over 30 years.

Dr. Lesperance recently treated a patient who had lost most of her teeth from the lack of access to dental treatment in her country of origin. She felt embarrassed in the public eye and would not smile because her front teeth were missing. Dr. Lesperance and his staff saw her for several appointments and they were able to replace all of her missing teeth and give her back her smile. Dr. Lesperance shared, “When we handed her the mirror on her final visit, she was very moved by having all of her teeth for the first time in her adult life and started crying with tears of joy and hugged all of us!”

Between experiencing the heartwarming reaction of how his dental work increased the confidence of his patient, and attending a lecture about the correlation between dental health and mental health, Dr. Lesperance wanted to highlight the complex relationship between the importance of dental or oral health and keeping the rest of the human body as healthy as possible. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, he thought it would be useful to share this with his patients and others interested in the topic.

10 Ways Dental Health is Connected to Mental Health

It’s no surprise that when most of us feel good or happy or think the world is going our way, we smile. And when – for whatever reason – we feel sad, or disappointed, or depressed, or in pain, we do not smile. Taking that concept even further by correlating one’s emotional or mental health to oral or dental health, we learned that:

  1. When a person has poor oral health, it may affect their eating, speech and self-esteem and this may lead to fewer social interactions, which exacerbates mental well-being even more, according to psychiatry.org.
  2. Adults with severe depression are more than twice as likely to not brush their teeth at least twice a day.
  3. Adults with depression floss their teeth less often. 
  4. People who suffer from anxiety or depression or another mental health disease visit the dentist much less often. 
  5. Adults with poor mental health tend to have unmet oral health needs and are less likely to seek care. 
  6. Depression is linked to higher levels of dental decay. 
  7. People with mental illness may not maintain a healthy diet, and a poor diet can lead to oral health issues.
  8. Periodontal disease is associated with higher scores on measures of depression. 
  9. Depression scores are higher for people with chronic face and jaw pain.
  10. Young adults with a history of depression are more likely to have extended use of opioid prescriptions after having a wisdom tooth removed. 

And while diseases that cause memory loss are different than mental health, studies have shown a strong correlation exists between oral health or gum disease and dementia.

South Gables Dental Peaceful Office

How the Atmosphere of a Dental Office Affect Mental Health and Wellbeing

Dr. Lesperance is well aware that many people list visiting the dentist as one of their least favorite activities, and in fact the Cleveland Clinic reports some interesting statistics:

  • About 36% of people in the U.S. have a fear of dental treatment, with 12% having an extreme fear. 
  • About 3% of adults in industrialized countries may have dentophobia – a type of specific phobia disorder where going to the dentist leads to a fearful response – and avoid going to the dentist at all.
  • Fear of dentists is more common in females than in males. Some studies suggest that nearly 3% of men and almost 5% of women have dentophobia.

Because of this, South Gables Dental has taken great care to create a positive environment for patients, including:

  • A soothing waterfall at reception provides both visual and aural relaxation.
  • Each patient room includes much natural sunlight, and in fact one whole wall of each room is a sliding glass door.
  • Patient chairs in the exam rooms face the wall of glass and look out into a carefully cultivated tropical garden, lush with several varieties of palms, orchids and staghorns.

In addition, we previously shared information about mental health and oral health, and you can learn some tactics to decrease stress here.

You’re Not Alone: Resources for Behavioral Health

Plenty of resources for mental or behavioral health are available in Miami-Dade County, even if you don’t have insurance:

Need a Local Dentist in Miami, Florida?

If you are suffering from any dental-related health issues whether they were induced by stress or not, the experienced team at South Gables Dental is proud to be your local dental professionals in Miami, Florida.

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