We already know that there's a clear link between our teeth and our emotions. The CDC explains how oral health can affect a person’s self-esteem, as well as other aspects of our lives. In fact, studies show that 40% of older adults choose to smile less due to the appearance of their teeth.
However, did you know that this relationship also works the other way around? Negative emotions also impact our teeth, which creates a cycle of bad oral and mental health. Thankfully, there are several ways we can preemptively take care of our teeth and emotions. Here's a closer look below.
Intense bouts of stress can damage our bodies in various ways, and this includes our teeth. Research in Current Oral Health Reports details how gum diseases like periodontitis — which can cause teeth to loosen and lead to tooth loss — are caused by bacteria and aggravated by stress.
When an individual is under psychosocial stress, communication between the brain and other organs breaks down. This means that, due to negative emotions like anxiety or depression, the endocrine and immune systems cannot efficiently mobilize internal defenses for survival and safety. Our decreased immunity thus increases our susceptibility to infections and bacterial proliferation.
Otherwise, these negative states are often associated with a loss of motivation and productivity. This can also affect an individual’s ability to take the best care of their teeth and gums, which could lead to gum disease over a short to moderate period of time.
Negative emotions can also give way to involuntary physical actions that can be harmful to our teeth. For example, many people can have a tendency towards bruxism. This is the clinical term to describe clenching or grinding the teeth that people can do unconsciously when under stress or anxiety. Bruxism can lead to serious damage, and may even require reconstructive surgery.
In our previous article on Teeth Chattering Anxiety, we discussed how people who have higher neuroticism or lower objectivity can also develop this physiological response. These involuntary tremors of the jaw can also wear down tooth surfaces and tooth enamel, leading to future complications.
Since negative emotions can affect our tooth health, we need to focus on ways that we can strengthen our mentality. Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns details how an individual tends to become overwhelmed when negative emotions arise. This impacts the body internally and externally. It's important to try to examine why these thoughts happen. Ask yourself, “What thoughts are going through my mind right now? Why is this upsetting me?”
By learning to restructure your thoughts and identify cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization or personalization, you can boost your emotions and avoid falling into cycles of negativity.
Preventive measures for physical tooth health are also important. Many lack an understanding of oral health which can lead to additional stress associated with dentists.
While attempting to resolve the roots of negative emotions, it's important that current aggravating behaviors are minimized to prevent further damage to your teeth. An individual who tends to grind their teeth can benefit from our custom night guards at Remi, and our teeth whitening kits can help anyone looking for an additional boost of confidence.
Understanding the relationship between oral health and emotions means children and adults of different ages can find solutions, benefit from happier lives, and face every new day with more confident smiles.
Written by Kristine Peys