It’s easy to overlook the importance of dental hygiene and mental health in your overall health and well-being. But good dental hygiene goes beyond simply fighting tooth decay and depression can have a significant impact on just about every aspect of an individual’s life.
In fact, these two seemingly disparate health topics are linked to a variety of conditions and general health. They’re so important that October has been declared National Dental Hygiene Month and October 11 named National Depression Screening Day.
Most people are aware that poor dental hygiene can cause several problems, including bad breath, tooth decay (cavities), and gum disease. What they may not be aware of, though, is the range of serious illnesses that can result from not brushing and flossing. For example, a 2010 study conducted by New York University researchers revealed a link between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease. Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health determined that one type of gum inflammation – periodontitis — is associated with pancreatic cancer and the other main type of inflammation, gingivitis, can lead to periodontitis. Most gum inflammation in general is caused by bad dental hygiene that enables bad bacteria to build up in plaque around the base of the teeth.
Researchers have also found that heart disease risk increases because bacteria from the mouth of individuals with bleeding gums is able to enter the bloodstream and stick to platelets, which can then form blood clots, interrupting the flow of blood to the heart and triggering a heart attack.
Depression’s effect on overall health
Did you know that depression has a greater impact on overall health than arthritis, diabetes, angina, and asthma? But according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), it all too often goes unrecognized and untreated.
Depression does more than affect your mental health. It also affects your physical health and raises the risk for health problems from heart disease to osteoporosis. Recognizing that depression is a medical illness requiring treatment is the first step to reducing the health risks associated with depression.
People who are depressed are not only more likely to develop heart disease, they also fare worse than others once they are diagnosed with it. Depression is also more common in people with heart disease, and being depressed can increase the chance of dying in the months after a heart attack.
Individuals with depression often have difficulty practicing healthy behaviors like eating right and exercising, which can raise the risk for diabetes. People with diabetes are also twice as likely to become depressed. Researchers don’t fully understand the relationship between the two conditions, but it’s clear that one condition makes the other worse. Along with raising the risk for heart disease and diabetes, depression also makes people more likely to develop obesity and its associated health problems.
So what can you do to avoid many of these potential health problems? Schedule regular check-ups with a dentist here at Community Health Connections – especially this month during National Dental Hygiene Month. It’s easy and convenient.
Also, if you’ve recently lost interest in things that use to bring you joy or have trouble focusing and working up the energy to get together with family and friends, you should consider getting screened for depression. Our mental health professionals can provide the kind of compassionate care and treatment that can restore balance and well-being.
Don’t wait. Take action now – you’ll feel better for it.