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Exploring the connection between dental and mental health
Updated: 4/12/2013 3:44:55 PM

Examining the connection between dental and mental health

By now, most people have heard that dental health is related to the well-being of other organs, like the heart. However, many individuals may not know that dental care can be associated with mental health as well. A recent article published in The Washington Times explained how oral and mental health are related. Specifically, how psychological well-being can affect the teeth, and vice-versa

The news source started by explaining that one of the most basic ways that psychology is associated with dental health is that an estimated 75 percent of adults experience some form of dental fear. This may keep them from keeping regular appointments with their dentist or even caring for their teeth properly. Furthermore, The Washington Times added that 5 to 10 percent of this 75 percent experience odontophobia, which is an extreme and often irrational fear of dentistry. 

Creating a lifetime of fear
The Washington Times explained that often, people develop a fear of the dentist because they hear horror stories from others about a painful experience. Unfortunately, sometimes these stories are told around children, who are already prone to being afraid of doctors and dentists. A recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Madrid found that children are likely to develop a fear of the dentist if their parents exhibit the same fear around them, particularly their fathers. 

This is one reason why it's so important for people to combat their fear of the dentist, and if they can't, they should at least do their best not to pass their discomfort onto their children. Parents should explain to their kids the importance of regular dental visits and try to make it seem as fun as possible so they will be eager to go.

Teeth can affect mental health
Another way that psychology and dental health are related is that having bad teeth can negatively impact self-esteem. People who are missing teeth may lose confidence in their appearance and experience depression as a result. 

The Washington Times adds that studies performed on rodents show that the fewer teeth they have, the greater the deterioration in the cerebral cortex they experience. 

Also, the National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that many people with mental illness don't prioritize their dental health, and choose to spend their money treating other health problems they have instead. This is a major problem, since the organization adds that having a mental disability may prevent people from taking proper care of their teeth to begin with, so they should be going to the dentist so he or she can give them regular cleanings. 

The alliance also explained that some people with mental illness may have a lack of knowledge about dental care, embarrassment regarding neglected care and an intense fear of the dentist that can deter them from keeping their teeth healthy. 

What can be done?
People who are afraid of going to the dentist should talk to a dental health professional about their concerns. There are many dentists out there who offer "judgment-free" treatment where they promise that they will not chastise the patient for their poor dental habits. Furthermore, they may also want to ask to examine a dentist's instruments, since they may not seem as frightening once they are seen up close. 

Also, people who have mental health problems should make sure that they visit the dentist regularly. It's important for healthcare professionals to make sure that their patients with mental issues are caring for their teeth and have access to a dentist in their area who is willing to treat individuals who may have special needs, since not all dental health professionals are qualified to do so. 

© 2013 Brafton Inc.


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