“I have very low self-esteem even as an adult because of the bullying that I have faced as a child due to my crooked teeth. Though I have gotten it fixed now, my experiences have turned me into an introvert and less accessible.”
~ A young lady.
“People avoid sitting beside me because I have bad breath. This has greatly affected my personal and professional life.”
~ An IT Employee.
Oral health has a direct correlation with the mental health of a person. Bad oral hygiene is the reason for many mental health issues like low self-esteem, shyness, introverted nature. The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, and any condition that impairs physical, mental, or social health reduces both individual well-being and the well-being of communities.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, ugly teeth are the main reason for bullying among school children.
The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) collected data from early adolescents who are approximately 13–15 years old and enrolled in middle schools in India and 11 other countries found a positive correlation between mental health and overall hygiene of the child including oral hygiene.
Mental health issues that are related to depression, anxiety, or other conditions may lead to behavioural problems at home and school, increased participation in risk-taking behaviours, such as alcohol and drug use, strained relationships with family and peers, and underachievement in school.
A smile and teeth are the first features people notice when you walk into a room and important to communication and developing relationships.
Research has shown that physically attractive people achieve higher levels of success in many aspects of life than unattractive people. Crooked teeth in turn lead to many periodontal problems which might eventually lead to bad breath. This is the most common complaint that affects relationships and efficiency at work.
Apart from these, caries, stained teeth, broken teeth, loss of teeth, smoking are a few other problems that affect an individual’s mental health. It’s very important for a dentist to pay attention to the patient’s mental health while treating them.
Here are a few tips that can be followed while addressing such needs:
Parents must be advised to reassure the children during their ugly duckling stage (8-9yrs) that it’s still their baby teeth phase and the smile will eventually change as they grow. They should be advised against making fun of the child's teeth.
If any other dental abnormality is detected by parents, they should reach out to dentists as early as possible.
Dento-facial malformations like cleft lips should be addressed at the earliest and must be followed up
Breath malodor should be treated by identifying the cause rather than it giving mere palliative treatment.
Though not mandatory, if parents see that the children are insecure, it is advisable to see the dentist and discuss the possible treatment plans and reinforce the message that their teeth would get better.
Caries and periodontal health issues must be treated as early as possible and follow up is mandatory.
Dental camps and public health programs should emphasize on the importance of oral health.
Smokers should be advised to quit smoking and must be educated about the alternatives that are available.
Educate and motivate edentulous elders about the need to get dentures.
A lot of evidence confirms the relationship between mental health and oral health and a holistic approach to health is the only way for a happier and healthier life.
“The first wealth is health” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.