Depression and a Healthy Smile: Break the Cycle

Depression is a hot topic in the modern world. Many people struggle with it, and many others are concerned about watching for the signs so they don’t miss something that could potentially save a loved one’s life. Along with life-threatening concerns like suicide, depression can cause a variety of other problems that most people don’t even realize. Even something simple as the ability to laugh or smile could be affected. The first full week of May (7th-13th) recognizes National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week.

The Fear of Smiling: How Does Poor Dental Health Create Ongoing Sadness?

Science has already taught us that an unhealthy mouth can increase your risk of heart problems, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. Did you know that it can also affect your chances of getting depression? Researchers have found a strong relationship between cavities, gum disease and mental health problems.

An unhealthy mouth can lead to problems in many ways, causing you to:

  • Feel ashamed of your teeth.
  • Avoid dating or other social interactions.
  • Experience nagging pain from cavities that lowers your mood and wears on you daily.
  • Have a higher level of inflammation in your body, possibly triggering other health conditions.
  • Abuse drugs, alcohol or painkillers in an effort to reduce anxiety.

Oral Health and Mental Health: How Do You Break the Nasty Cycle?

It’s probably easy to see how this could become an unhealthy self-feeding cycle. Not only does your mood and self-confidence plummet when dealing with dental problems, but a low mood can also cause you to have difficulty taking care of your teeth properly. Anxiety and isolation cause the body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to more cavities and gum disease. As the problem continues to worsen, you lose hope, and eventually, you give up on yourself all together.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to break thecycle by getting your teeth looked at by a professional. If your self-esteem is low, you might not want to do this. You might convince yourself that you don’t deserve treatment, but please know that your health, happiness and smile are all worth fighting for.

Smiling and Happiness: Which Comes First?

You already know that it’s difficult to smile when you’re depressed, but did you know smiling can help reduce sadness? It’s obvious that the emotions that lead to a smile make us feel good, but researchers have discovered that the physical act of smiling can also trick our minds into producing more feel-good chemicals. A 2009 study from the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who had Botox injections felt happier on average, and it’s believed this might be due to their inability to frown. While Botox is certainly not for everyone, this does shed some light on the fact that simply practicing the act of smiling can help people feel better.

If you’re depressed and haven’t smiled recently, try faking it for a while. If that doesn’t work, find a sweet or funny video to watch. Don’t pressure yourself to heal from your sadness in a day. It’s impossible in most cases. Instead, focus on setting small, easy-to-accomplish goals, such as spending a few minutes smiling, reaching out to a friend or scheduling an appointment with the dentist. With a good checkup, cleaning and treatment recommendation, you should be on track to healing your dental problems and feeling better about your smile in no time.

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