Mental Impact of Bad Teeth
There is a well-documented relationship between physical health and oral health in literature. For example, medical practitioners have reported positive links between heart problems and unhealthy teeth (Sheiham, 2005). In addition, pregnancy issues such as premature birth have also been linked to gum disease. There is also growing evidence that oral health has an impact on our psychological well-being, including how we smile, socialise with others, and express our emotions (Lee, 2007). Having a good set of teeth is a joy to behold. This becomes especially critical as we advance in age. Besides improving our facial appearances, thus revealing a radiant smile, a good set of teeth also enables us to chew food well and, in this way, bad teeth can affect our nutritional intake. However, the premise of the current paper is to examine the mental impact of bad teeth.
Impact of Poor Dental Health
As a vital part of physical health, oral health impacts on our self-confidence, self-esteem, and our overall quality of life (Department of Health, 2005). Sheiham (2005) notes that oral diseases are among the most prevalent forms of chronic diseases, and that they impact greatly on the lives of individuals. Several studies have documented the association between poor oral health and mental health problems. For example, studies show that individuals with anxiety and depression also tend to greater tooth loss owing to reduced use of oral health services.
In addition, studies have revealed that individuals with serious mental illness are three times more likely to have tooth loss that the rest of the population (Khokhar et al., 2011). Losing teeth or having bad teeth can have devastating psychological effects on an individual. For example, people who have lost teeth tend to avoid smiling. There is also a resultant loss in self-esteem and confidence (Lee, 2007).
According to Locker (1997), oral health impacts on the psychological and physical wellbeing of people, in addition to influencing how they enjoy life, grow, taste and chew foods, as well as socialize. Moreover, the social well-being and feelings of a people is impacted on by their dental health.
In his article that appeared on the April 6, 2013 edition of the Washington Times, Paul Mountjoy talks of an intimate relationship between dental and oral health issues. Mountjoy (2013) infers that our psychological well-being could be affected by our oral health, and vice versa.
New research conducted by Oasis Dental Care, indicates that nearly 70% (or the equivalent of 9.7 million) people in the UK state that they are negatively affected by having bad teeth (Dentistry's Information Centre 2014). The survey also revealed that approximately 29% of the adult population in the UK (about 14 million people) already have bad teeth, and are thus at an increased risk of not only suffering from teeth decay, but also mental decay.
One way in which bad teeth affect the mental wellbeing of individuals is that they lose self-esteem, as evidenced by their reluctance to smile. Again, the survey by Oasis Dental Centre revealed that about 39% (or the equivalent of 5.4 million) of the participants in the study stated that either do not smile at all or try to hide their smiles. In terms of eroded self-confidence, 31% of the people (or the equivalent of 4.4 million) stated that they felt less confident while in public on account of their bad teeth.
Although dental diseases are associated with low mortality rate, nonetheless, they tend to have a considerable effect of the self-esteem and self-confidence (Moynihan & Petersen 2004) in both children and adults. Since teeth play a crucial role in communication, speech, and one's facial appearance, bad teeth will therefore mean that a person will find it hard to speak or smile, in public. This will definitely erode their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Moynihan and Petersen (2004) further note that bad teeth could result to impaired social functioning of an individual due to for example, oral diseases. Consequently, such an individual may avoid smiling or laughing on account of the poor appearance of their teeth. In addition, such individuals are always apprehensive about meeting others. There is also the likelihood that other people could end up making jokes about one's bad teeth. As such, bad teeth have a detrimental impact on the quality of life of an individual not just in childhood, but in old age as well.
The link between oral health and mental week-being is well documented in literature. Specifically, bad teeth affect our self-confidence and self-esteem, including socializing with others in public. People with bad teeth are more likely to manifest serious negative psychological issues, and this could end up affecting their overall well-being. For this reason, there is need to address this issue by practicing proper oral hygiene.
Dentistry's Information Centre 2014. Bad Teeth Can Have Mental Impact. Retrieved from http://www.dentistry.co.uk/news/bad-teeth-can-have-mental-impact
Department of Health (2005). Choosing Better Oral Health: An Oral Health Plan for England. London: Department of Health Publications.
Khokhar, W. A., Clifton, A., Jones, H., & Tosh, G. (2011). Oral health advice for people with serious mental illness. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11.
Lee, B (2007). Things You Should Know about Teeth: The Complete Guide to Dental Health and Beauty. London, UK: AuthorHouse.
Locker, D. (1997). Concepts of oral health, disease and the quality of life. In: Slade GD, editor. Measuring oral health and quality of life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Dental Ecology; 1997, pp. 11-23.
Mountjoy, P. 2013. Oral health care and psychology are intertwined. The Washington Times, Sunday, April 7.
Moynihan, P & Petersen, P. E. (2004). Diet, nutrition and prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutrition, 7(1A), 201-226.
Sheiham, A. (2005). Oral health, general health and quality of life. Bull World Health Organ, 83, 644-645.