There is a close connection between your mental health and general health and wellbeing. A 2021 article from Dental Nursing1 shared evidence to suggest that ‘people with mental ill-health are disproportionately affected by poor oral health’, sharing that poor mental health often has both a direct and indirect impact on your ability to maintain a good standard of oral hygiene and health.
The article reported that patients with severe mental illness were almost 50 times more likely to have periodontal disease. It also suggested that poor mental health is often linked to factors such as homelessness and substance abuse that have consequences for oral health, and illnesses like eating disorders can carry five times the odds of dental erosion1.
Similarly, a recent study led by the University of Birmingham also found that, in patients with a recorded history of gum disease, the increased risk of developing mental ill-health was 37%2.
The evidence is there to indicate that those suffering with their mental health can find it difficult to take care of their oral health. Some of the most common mental illnesses that have this effect include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis3.
The Oral Health Foundation laid out some of the main issues for those suffering with mental illness in relation to oral health3:
Those suffering with mental illness tend to neglect their oral hygiene, which can cause gum disease and tooth decay.
Anxiety surrounding visits to the dentist can impact a patient’s ability to attend regular check-ups with their dentist.
Some types of medication can cause side effects such as dry mouth, which can impact your oral health.
Conditions such as bulimia can cause dental erosion, and low levels of calcium can affect your dental health.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said, “Understanding that mental disorders can influence the health of our mouth is extremely important. It gives us a platform to be able to increase the standard of oral health in the UK and beyond.
More effective education, individual treatment plans, better supportive therapy and aftercare, must be provided for those suffering with depression and other mental health disorders.
For these things to happen, we must first improve our ability to spot depression, which often goes undiagnosed.”4
If you are concerned that your mental health is having an impact on your oral health, the first thing you should do is visit your GP to discuss what support is available. If you have already noticed symptoms of any oral health problems, you should also visit your dentist for a check-up as soon as possible.