Dental Guide

Mental Health And Dentistry

Signs of Mental Health Risk in Teeth

You may be surprised to find out that baby teeth can indicate a child’s likelihood of developing a mental illness later in life. Erin C. Dunn from MGH’s Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit performed a study on baby’s teeth and their mothers to determine if there is a connection between risk of mental health disorders and a baby’s teeth.

Their results proved to be conclusive in that the neonatal line in the primary teeth of babies was thicker the more stress or trauma the mother experienced while carrying the baby. Additionally, mothers that were themselves at higher risk or suffering from mental illness also had babies with thicker neonatal lines in their primary teeth. It is believed that the stress or difficulty resulting from mental illness creates an abundance of cortisol which is then apparent in the stress lines in the child’s teeth.

The implications of these findings, which were also published by Harvard, is that preventative and intervention style help can be offered to these children in order to set them up for a better, more functional life.

Dental health in adolescents and adults can also be indications of their current mental state. Individuals who struggle with mental health illnesses such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, etc can have a difficult time maintaining their mental health. The results of these conditions can be noticed by dentists as symptoms such as teeth grinding, jaw pain, worn enamel, stained teeth, tooth decay, or gum pain. Individuals experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to get help from professionals as well as their dentist. Treating these symptoms can go a long way in helping someone recover.

The Impact of Dental Health on Mental Health

While baby teeth may be an indicator of mental health, there are other ways that care for oral health can directly impact mental health for the better. Conversely, neglect of oral health can impact mental health for the worse.

Just as oral health can play a huge role in one’s overall physical health, it is also a component in overall mental health. Here are just a few examples of less than ideal dental health situations that would impact pre existing mental health conditions. Tooth pain caused by cavities, inflammation, pinched nerves, gum disease, crowding, and more. This can be aided by a dental specialist who may choose to place a tooth crown, same day. Other treatments may be required such as root canal therapy, gum disease treatment. On the other hand, cosmetic dentistry can do wonders for one’s self esteem. Self esteem is directly impacted by and can also impact mental health. Some people struggle with yellowing teeth, chipped or broken teeth, misaligned upper and lower teeth, or even missing teeth. An experienced dentist and trained dental staff are able to provide teeth whitening treatments, place veneers or implants, offer invisalign or other corrective technology. Additionally, a dentist would be able to advise on dentures for patients. Dentists are all about helping patients to walk out of their dental office feeling better than when they got there.

What To Do

If you or someone you know find yourself dealing with mental health related dental issues or have dental issues that take a toll on your mental health, these are a few helpful tips:

  • Take small steps in creating a nightly teeth care routine. A good floss and brush each night can be a huge success. And it can make someone feel a lot better.
  • See a dental professional. Dentists specialize in treatments guaranteed to improve your smile. If you’re lucky, you can even find a patient-first dentist. These are dentists committed to meeting patients’ needs and providing the best experience.

Mental health and dental health should both be taken seriously. Visit your dentist, and get healthy today.

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