The Surprising Link Between Mental Health and Oral Health

person using toothbrush
  • Poor oral hygiene has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. 
  • Research suggests that improving an individual’s oral health can help improve their mental well-being. 
  • Poor oral hygiene can contribute to depression, as people may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their teeth. 
  • Common dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and dry mouth can affect children and adults. 
  • Taking steps to prevent and treat these conditions is essential for maintaining good oral and mental health.

As parents, you may be used to brushing your children’s teeth every night and taking them for regular dental checkups. However, did you know there is a connection between oral and mental health? Dental care is more important than you might have realized when it comes to children’s overall well-being. Read on to learn more about the unexpected link between these two areas of health.

The Mouth-body Connection

Good oral hygiene has been linked to improved mental well-being in adults and children. Scientists have long studied the mouth-body connection, which is the idea that changes in one area of our bodies can affect other parts of us. For example, people with gum disease are more likely to suffer from diabetes or heart disease—and vice versa. So it should be no surprise that poor oral health can also lead to mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

What’s even more interesting is that research suggests the reverse could be true as well—that improving an individual’s oral health can help improve their mental well-being too. In fact, one study found that participants felt less anxious after having a professional cleaning at the dentist’s office. This suggests that just taking the time to focus on your child’s oral health could be beneficial for their mental health as well as physical health.


The connection between depression and oral health is surprisingly strong, and research has shown an actual link between the two. Studies have found that people who suffer from depression are more likely to have poor oral health than those without mental illness. For example, they may be more likely to skip flossing or brushing their teeth, which can lead to cavities and gum disease.

At the same time, poor oral health can contribute to depression. This is because people with poor oral hygiene may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their teeth, leading to feelings of depression. Additionally, chronic pain from untreated dental problems can make it difficult for someone to concentrate or participate in activities they enjoy, which can further contribute to feelings of depression.

Social Anxiety

People who suffer from social anxiety may be more likely to avoid visiting the dentist or taking proper care of their teeth due to fear of judgment or embarrassment. Unfortunately, this can lead to even more oral health issues, such as gum disease or cavities, further exacerbating their anxiety. Poor oral health can also make it difficult for someone to feel confident in social situations. People with discolored or missing teeth may be self-conscious when speaking or smiling, leading to further anxiety.

Woman with braces getting her teeth checked by the dentist

Common Dental Problems

Good oral health is essential for overall well-being, and the link between mental and physical health has been studied extensively. Unfortunately, many people suffer from common dental problems that can significantly impact their quality of life. In children, these issues range from cavities to tooth decay. Taking steps to prevent and treat these conditions is vital for both physical and mental health.

Common Dental Problems in Kids:

Parents must be aware of the common dental problems affecting their children. Poor oral hygiene and unhealthy habits can lead to various issues, from cavities and tooth decay to gum disease.

  • Tooth Decay/Cavities: Tooth decay happens when the teeth get holes in them. To fix it, the dentist might put fillings, crowns, or root canals in your teeth.
  • Gingivitis: Gingivitis is a gum problem that’s common in kids. It can be treated by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing every day, and going to the dentist for regular cleanings.
  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Teeth grinding is when kids rub their teeth together. They might need to wear a special mouthguard or change some habits to stop it.

Common Dental Problems in Adults:

Adults, like children, can suffer from a variety of dental problems. Adults must be aware of these common dental issues to take steps to prevent them and maintain good oral health. Proper care and attention make it possible to keep your teeth healthy throughout your lifetime!

  • Gum Disease/Periodontal Disease: Periodontal disease is a gum disease. It can make your gums hurt and become swollen. Treatment may involve antibiotics to fight infection and deep cleaning below the gum line to remove tartar buildup. In severe cases, dental implants may be required.
  • Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Xerostomia is a problem when you do not have enough saliva in your mouth. Treatment often includes over-the-counter saliva substitutes or prescription medications like those used for allergies or high blood pressure.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD): TMD is a problem with your jaw joints. It can cause pain, trouble opening or closing your mouth, and headaches. Treatments range from physical therapy exercises to wearing bite splints at night to reduce jaw clenching.

father and son holding tooth brushes

Oral Care Tips for Parents and Kids

Good oral health is essential for overall well-being, and the link between mental and physical health has been studied extensively. Additionally, adults must also be aware of common dental issues to maintain good oral health throughout their lifetime. Here are some tips on how both parents and kids can keep their teeth healthy:

  • Encourage your child to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily (or help your younger children floss)
  • Schedule regular checkups with your family dentist
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks
  • Teach your kids about proper nutrition

Good oral hygiene has been linked to improved mental well-being in both adults and children alike—so make sure you take the time to focus on your child’s dental care! Regular brushing, flossing, dentist visits, and healthy eating habits can help keep your teeth healthy while reducing stress levels and promoting positive mental well-being. Taking the time to practice good dental hygiene now will give your child a lifetime of benefits!

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