A recent survey suggests that the majority of Americans believe that bad oral health can negatively affect a person’s personal and professional life. However, the same study also reveals that many Americans don’t spend enough money–or time–taking care of their dental health.
Poor mouth maintenance can lead to a myriad of dental problems, such as cavities, gingivitis, and perpetually crooked teeth, just to name a few. And in turn, these dental problems can affect one’s mental health in a lot of ways:
1. Self-esteem issues
People who fail to take care of their teeth, get dentures, or address their pressing oral problems entirely are more likely to have self-esteem issues than people who don’t have dental issues. The fact that bad teeth hinder most people from smiling is a huge self-esteem issue in and of itself. Combined with the social pressures to look good and the possible adverse reactions from other people, dental problems can quickly reduce one’s self-esteem.
Consequently, reduced self-esteem can cause anxiety, stress, increased risk of depression, relationship problems, and poor academic or work performance. Without intervention from both oral and mental health professionals, these adverse effects can worsen over time.
2. Relationship problems
Dental problems, particularly aesthetically unpleasant teeth and bad breath, can affect one’s friendships and romantic relationships. With poor oral health, a person is more likely to be overly self-conscious about themselves, which can create a rift between them and their partner. In some cases, dental problems can also reduce a person’s willingness to engage in both physical and emotional intimacy, which is, of course, not healthy for any relationship.
Moreover, people often relate good teeth with good hygiene and the ability to take care of one’s self. Inversely, some people link bad teeth or bad breath with poor sanitation, which can affect how they view a person, whether as a friend or a romantic interest.
Similar to self-esteem issues, having social life problems can negatively affect one’s mental health. In adolescents, the lack of peer acceptance typically leads to anxiety and depression, especially now with the ridiculously high beauty standards of social media. It is the same for adults, but while they continue to experience difficulty in maintaining relationships, it can lead to harmful coping mechanisms.
3. Physical effects
Aside from the mental and emotional effects of dental problems, there are also the physical effects that can just as quickly affect a person’s mental health.
Many oral issues cause pain in varying degrees, especially when left untreated. The pain can range from mild to debilitating, depending on the type of condition. Other common symptoms include ulcers and sore, temperature sensitivity, swelling, jaw clicking, and frequent dry mouth.
The physical effects of oral problems can make it challenging to live life normally, which can, in some cases, increase anxiety, stress, and depression in an afflicted person.
Poor oral health can have negative impacts on one’s mental health, as well as exacerbate mental illness if it is already there. Thus, for the sake of mental and physical wellbeing, individuals suffering from oral problems should seek help immediately before their dental issues worsen.