Oral health is often seen as a window into one’s overall well-being. It is vital for good nutrition, communication and human relationships as well as for maintaining a strong economic base.
Those who prioritize oral care are more likely to live healthy lifestyles, which is key for good health. However, many factors influence oral health at the individual and community levels – known as structural and intermediate determinants of health (SDoH).
1. Increased Risk of Other Health Problems
People with poor oral health are more likely to experience other serious medical problems. This is due to the fact that bacteria from a mouth full of cavities can spread to other parts of the body, especially if fatty plaques reach arteries that connect to the heart and brain. These fatty plaques can block blood vessels, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Medical research has shown that there is a strong link between oral health and general well-being. This is because a healthy mouth can help to prevent or treat many other conditions around the body.
Oral diseases are a group of non-communicable disorders, including dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal disease, tooth loss, oral cancer and orofacial trauma, as well as birth defects such as cleft lips and palates. They are largely preventable by regular dental visits and the use of fluoride in drinking water, good nutrition and reduced consumption of sugary foods and beverages.
2. Lower Self-Esteem and Confidence
People with poor oral health are less likely to feel confident about themselves in their daily life. They may avoid social situations due to their embarrassment or discomfort, resulting in lost productivity and an overall lower quality of life.
Low self-esteem can also be a barrier to having healthy, fulfilling relationships. People who struggle with this often find it difficult to establish and maintain boundaries with their partners, which can lead to negative effects on both physical and mental health.
Research has shown that the mouth is a mirror of your body and that the health of your teeth, gums, heart, lungs, immune system, and more are all connected. This is why it’s important to maintain a consistent oral care routine and to visit your dentist on a regular basis. If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, there are resources available to help you. The website GoodTherapy offers a range of articles on the topic, as well as a search tool to find a therapist in your area.
3. Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues
Poor oral health is a significant risk factor for mental illness, and people with mental disorders have higher rates of dental problems (e.g., severe gum disease, tooth loss) than the general population. In addition, they are more likely to miss work or school due to their dental issues, which can lead to lost productivity and financial loss, and are more likely to be socially isolated because of the pain and embarrassment caused by their condition.
It is important to note that this two-way relationship between mental and oral health works both ways; people with mental disorders are more prone to choosing certain coping behaviors (like smoking) that negatively impact their oral health, and they may also develop dental conditions such as gum disease or tooth decay because of the stress associated with the prospect of receiving treatment. This is why it is so important for people with mental illness to receive regular oral health care.
4. Increased Stress and Anxiety
One of the primary causes of poor oral health is stress. This is not only a personal problem that affects a person’s self-esteem, but also has been theorized to cause problems with other critical physiologic systems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Studies have shown that those with mental health issues are at a greater risk for poor oral health and may not prioritize dental care as a result. In a survey, respondents who rated their own mental health as poor were over three times more likely to have unmet oral healthcare needs than those who rated their mental health as good.
The study was a nationally representative cross-sectional survey conducted in January and February 2021 to assess consumer attitudes, experiences, and behaviors related to oral health knowledge and oral care practices. The survey was deemed exempt by the WCG IRB. The data were analyzed using regression models to examine the relationships between perceived current stress, self-rated oral health outcomes, and demographics.