The Link Between Dental Health and Mental Wellness

Studies show a clinical connection between a person's oral health and general well-being.
Studies show a clinical connection between a person’s oral health and general well-being.

There’s more to your smile than meets the eye.

It’s long been recognized that oral hygiene plays an important role in your overall health. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly helps to prevent cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and infections.

Now, there is a growing body of evidence that healthy teeth contribute to mental health and well-being as well.

A by the University of Manchester’s School of Dentistry confirmed the first clinical link between teeth and quality of life. Researchers surveyed adults with full or partial dentures and found the patients were more prone to mild forms of stress than people with natural teeth or dental implants. Those with dentures were also more likely to lack confidence in their appearance.

In another study by University College London, nearly one in three adults felt an improved smile would improve their confidence and help them overcome embarrassment about how they look. 46% of participants also believed an attractive smile was key to a better appearance.

For better or for worse, society puts a lot of stock in the appearance of your smile. We tend to associate a spotless, white smile with beauty and good health. And as social scientist Malcom Gladwell observed in his New Yorker piece, teeth have also become as a sign of social status. Since dental care is not covered by universal health care in either Canada or the United States, many people must pay for trips to the dentist out-of-pocket. Perfect teeth are a sign of wealth; bad teeth imply you lack the means or the knowledge to care for your oral health.

“Anxiety about their appearance means people quite literally cannot grin and bear it,” wrote Dr. Andrew McCance, a researcher in the UCL study. “Their embarrassment with their facial appearance has hampered their careers or stopped them forming relationships.”

No wonder people feel self-conscious about their smile.

It’s not to say that access to dental care would instantly boost a person’s confidence. Not everyone with bad teeth has poor self esteem, of course, and even those with a perfect smile still suffer from stress and low self-esteem. But there is clearly a link between teeth and mental wellness.

For many people, better oral health would be a big step in improving their overall health and wellness. These findings underline the importance of promoting good oral hygiene and providing access to dental care.