If you follow our blogs about oral health, you know that dentists can detect potentially serious conditions that affect your entire body simply by looking in your mouth. A new study suggests dentists may also be able to spot bullying.

Bullying has grown into a major problem. It puts countless adolescents under heightened emotional stress. According to the New York Daily News, data collected in Brazil reveals that kids who experience bullying are more likely to grind their teeth while they sleep.

A Strikingly Common Habit

Oral health and bullying: Kids who were verbally bullied were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Oral health and bullying: Kids who experienced verbal bullying were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Researchers looked at the oral health and academic experiences of over 300 children ages thirteen to fifteen.

Sixty-five percent of the bullied students ground their teeth.

“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress,” says Dr. Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “…bullying is a significant contributor here,” he says. “Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it.”

What Causes Bruxism?

An abnormal bite can lead to bruxism. However, dentists usually attribute tooth grinding to stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

In 2017, actor Demi Moore confessed to Jimmy Fallon that over the past two years, stress caused her to grind her two front teeth. In fact, she ground them so hard that her dentist had to remove them. The two, shiny front teeth she sported on The Tonight Show were fake.

Symptoms of bruxism include worn down teeth, hypersensitive teeth and jaw aches. As Dr. Carter said, most bruxism sufferers don’t know they grind their teeth. Not, that is, until someone who sleeps in the same room hears them in the act.

While people usually grind their teeth at night, some sufferers grind their teeth while doing chores or driving, the BBC reported.

A Vital Insight into a Child’s State of Mind

With this new evidence about the likely cause, nonprofits like the Oral Health Foundation are taking action. They are urging parents and school nurses to view these symptoms in children as signs of bullying or other emotionally debilitating problems.

“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact,” Dr. Carter said. Moreover, “when experienced in childhood, [these] can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.”

“Grinding teeth may not sound like a priority within the wider picture,” Dr. Carter added. However, “…it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.”

Grinding teeth could be an important sign for identifying bullying at an earlier stage.

Dentists who detect bruxism may fit the patient with a plastic mouth guard to help protect the teeth. Arguably, the most effective way to break the habit, however, is to relieve stress via exercise, meditation, or even psychological counseling.

The only way to know if you have bruxism or your symptoms are a cause for concern is by going to the dentist at least twice a year. The cost of preventing this and other oral health conditions will far outweigh the cost of repairing damage.

Read next: Back to School Dental Care Checklist

children running in a field

Parents and caregivers are often skeptical about the safety of sedation dentistry for children.

Children rarely need general anesthesia. However, if they are unusually aggressive or in need of treatment for more than just a few teeth, your dentist may use it. Nevertheless, parents and caregivers are often skeptical about the safety of sedation dentistry for children.

Dentists are likely to use Midazolam to put kids undergoing minor dental surgery to sleep. In fact, it’s the most widely used pediatric sedative. Recent research has shown this drug is safe. In addition, negative side effects in toddlers undergoing dental surgery are considered highly unlikely.

Facts vs. Suspicion

A team from Ohio State University (OSU) examined 650 previous cases of sedation dentistry. Their study looked at sedation dentistry used on 333 male and 317 female children.*

Patients received the sedative in one of three ways: via the mouth, nose, or orally in combination with other sedatives. Researchers assigned a success rate to each procedure based on a number of factors. For example, these included the behavior of the patient, effectiveness of the sedation, presence of negative side effects, and number of teeth treated.

According to Bite Magazine, all three types of procedures achieved success rates of over 85%. Oral administration had the lowest rate of negative side effects.

Learn more: Why Generation Z Might Go On to Have the Healthiest Teeth to Date

The dental teams saw post-procedural nausea and/or vomiting in less than 4% of the patients. The majority of these were administered multiple sedatives. Less than 6% of patients displayed “angry-child syndrome.” In these cases, the sedative evoked the opposite reaction due to a loss of emotional control.

A Less Stressful Way to Quell These Fears

The research team concluded that all three methods of sedation will likely pose no harm for children having the most common types of dental surgery.

“In our study, Midazolam in several forms and combinations proved effective and safe with minimal side effects. We can recommend these uses of Midazolam for necessary treatment in young children,” the researchers concluded.

…several forms and combinations proved effective and safe with minimal side effects…

Waiting until a child’s third or fourth year to see the dentist has proven hazardous. It’s now fairly common for toddlers to display potentially serious dental problems that began during infancy.

Learn more: Dental Anxiety and Kids: Parents, Caregivers, Dentists All Play a Role

Dental professionals recommend taking children for their first dental visit when they are just six months to one year old. Earlier dental visits can help prevent these problems from arising. In addition, they can help ensure your child doesn’t have to undergo extensive surgery at a young age.

Read next: Dental Trauma and Kids: Common Problems

*Article Citation: Safety and Efficacy of 3 Pediatric Midazolam Moderate Sedation Regimens. Anesthesia Progress: Summer 2017, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp. 66-72.

 

Dentists using a new method fit patients for dentures fast. The dentures are ready the very next day.

Dentists using a new method fit patients for dentures fast. The dentures are ready the very next day.

Every year, Remote Area Medical holds a free medical clinic in Wise County, Virginia that serves about 2,000 patients over the course of three days. Among the many services available is dentistry, thanks to the approximately 450 volunteers who make up the Mission of Mercy dental team.

The team performs root canals, fills cavities, extracts teeth and even fits patients with dentures. At previous clinics, there was only enough time to supply around eight sets of dentures during the event, according to the Washington Post.

“When I started, we were doing dentures in the conventional way,” said Mission of Mercy dentist Dr. Scott Miller.

This process involved several complex steps including fittings, re-linings, and finally assembling the dentures by hand in a separate location.

Tools of the Future

However, just a few years ago, the team developed a new way to make dentures that can serve almost ten times as many people as the clinics of years past.

“We just had a need for something that instead of doing maybe just twelve patients in a weekend we could do a hundred,” Dr. Stephen Alouf told local news outlet KSNB.

instead of doing maybe just twelve patients in a weekend we could do a hundred

The new method can fit someone with plastic dentures in as little as one hour. This allows dentists to create 50 full and about 30 partial sets at the annual clinic. An acrylic material gives the team the ability take impressions one day and the dentures are ready the next.

The team’s desire to satisfy as many people on the clinic’s waiting list as possible sparked the development of the new method, Dr. Miller said.

“It’s the only way we can put a dent in that list of 800 people,” he said.

New Method for Creating Dentures

One attendee of the clinic in July 2017  was 71-year-old Larry Bays. Bays shattered his teeth in a workplace accident that also broke his pelvis and sternum.

The traditional method of creating dentures required patients to register ahead of time. However, at this year’s clinic, the new method was so efficient that the team actually had time to fit in patients without appointments, like Bays.

“Wow,” Bays told dental assistant Diana Fuller after seeing his new teeth in the mirror for the first time. “That looks great.”


The Power of a Healthy Smile — A friendly, beaming and healthy smile generally puts people at ease and makes others feel welcome in your presence.


Bays was among the many patients who drove several hours and camped out in their cars to be treated. The dentures were surely worth it, however, since they clearly help to reignite a person’s self-esteem.

“Well, you know, dentistry has been pretty good to me,” Dr. Alouf said. “I feel that it’s our role and our responsibility to give back.”

Read next: Domestic Abuse Survivor Is Reborn After Dentist Repairs Smile

A startling revelation from a Hollywood actor highlights one of the most prevalent causes of oral health problems: stress.

Demi Moore appeared on “The Tonight Show” in June to chat with host Jimmy Fallon about her new film, “Rough Night.”

But before they discussed her role, Fallon showed the audience a recent photo of Moore smiling with one of her front teeth missing. The 54-year-old then told Fallon that this was the second of her two front teeth she had lost.

Showing how Harmful Stress Can Be

“I’d love to say it was skateboarding or something really kind of cool,” Moore said before confessing to have been so overcome with stress that she “sheared off” her front teeth.

Learn more: Stress and Oral Health

“They happened a year apart but the fact remains that I sheared off both my front teeth,” she added. “Thank God for modern dentistry. Without it, I wouldn’t be smiling on the red carpet.”

Thank God for modern dentistry. Without it, I wouldn’t be smiling on the red carpet.

Speaking of how the second tooth actually came out, Moore told Fallon that she “literally knocked it out. It was almost like it fell out and my warranty was up.”

In addition to comic relief, Moore explained that the photo’s purpose was to show the world just how harmful stress can be.

“I think it’s something that’s important to share, because I think it’s literally, probably after heart disease, one of the biggest killers in America,” she said of stress.

Other Factors Involved

Stress and anxiety can make people neglect their overall health.

Stress and anxiety can make people neglect their overall health.

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can in fact be a product of stress. An abnormal bite, missing teeth, crooked teeth or sleep disorders like sleep apnea can also be causes. People who drink a lot of caffeine are also more likely to grind their teeth. Alcohol has been shown to intensify teeth grinding as well.

Research shows that stress is a cause of up to 70% of bruxism cases. That may be because teeth grinding is a common outcome of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response.

Dr. Gary Glassman, a dentist who specializes in endodontics, told the New York Post that stress was likely not the only cause for Moore’s two lost teeth.

“I would suspect that there were definitely other factors involved,” he said. “[Bruxism] can wreak havoc and when you’re under stress and have a lot of anxiety. That’s the number one reason why people grind their teeth.”

Another reason stress and anxiety pose a danger to oral health is their ability to make people neglect their overall health in general. Someone who is in a bad mood, Dr. Glassman explained, is more likely to forget to brush his or teeth, floss, and show up for dental checkups.

My Dentist, My Therapist

While the precise timeline of Moore’s tooth loss was not disclosed, teeth grinding does have the potential to fracture teeth, loosen teeth, or wear them down to stumps.

Most people who grind their teeth do so at night. In fact, many aren’t even aware they are grinding their teeth until someone who sleeps in the same room hears the grinding noise.


Dental Trauma — Learn all about the various types of oral wounds or distress that may result from a sudden injury.


Your dentist can identify bruxism by observing jaw tenderness or a healthy tooth that seems smaller or duller than normal. Dentists typically fit patients with the condition for mouth guards, which protect the teeth from wearing down as they sleep.

If your dentist finds that stress is a key factor, she might suggest you try an exercise routine or mental health counseling. Any outlet for stress – whether yoga, reading, or playing music – can help decrease the odds of bruxism developing.

Who do you know that could use this news? Now’s your chance to share this post!

Read next: Oral Health and Bullying: How Dentists Can Spot Verbal Abuse

There is much evidence to prove the risk that goes with poor oral health. The fact is, it’s hard to have a healthy body if oral health concerns are ignored. For example, when oral infections spread throughout the body, they can raise the risks for heart disease and diabetes.

How Oral Plaque Attacks a Healthy Body

man in a dental chair - Healthy teeth play an important role in maintaining a healthy body.

Healthy teeth play an important role in maintaining a healthy body.

Food particles stick to your teeth when you eat. These attract bacteria. Unless you brush and floss each day, the bacteria turn into plaque and that turns into tartar, which may lead to gum disease.

Symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, painful chewing, sensitive teeth, or swollen gums. Any of these should prompt you to see a dentist. They will be able to tell if gum disease is present, and they can remove any tartar that has formed.

Without dental care, though, tiny pockets can form between your teeth and gums. Then, as more bacteria gets in, the pockets may grow worse. Finally, the oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream.

Heart Disease

Once they enter your blood, bacteria can inflame other parts of your body. For example, if you are at risk for heart disease, your heart could find it hard to relax and contract as needed.

Scientists have confirmed oral bacteria’s link with heart attack. And they have reported that when plaque s is scraped away by a dentist, the heart works better.

Diabetes

Once they enter your bloodstream, oral bacteria can also cause glucose levels to skyrocket. This failure to process sugar can be hazardous to diabetics and pre-diabetic alike.

However, studies show when dentists remove plaque the blood sugar levels return closer to normal.

Stroke and Alzheimer’s

The effect of oral bacteria on the brain is very similar to its effect on the heart. It makes the brain’s vessels more vulnerable to developing plaque, which is the key factor for a stroke.

In 2016, British researchers monitored Alzheimer’s patients and saw that those with gum disease experienced mental deterioration six times faster than those with healthier gums. Alzheimer’s patients are also more likely to suffer from poor oral health because they forget daily habits like brushing teeth.

Doctors and Oral Health

More and more, doctors ask their patients about dental visits before drawing conclusions or moving forward with operations, according to Men’s Journal.

Cardiologist Melvyn Rubenfire, for example, schedules dentist appointments for patients going into surgery in order to eliminate the risk of complications from oral infections.

Harvard endocrinologist William Hsu tells his diabetic patients their worries about glucose levels will decline significantly if they see the dentist every six months for an exam. When he observes a rise in blood glucose, his first question to the patient is, “When was the last time you had a dental cleaning?”

Read Next: 5 Positive Oral Health Benefits

relaxed dental patient - How do dentists learn empathy?

How do dentists learn empathy? An experiment at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry shows one approach.

No matter the time of the year, a Google search of “oral health news” or “latest dental news” usually reveals countless stories about free dental clinics, free care for vets, or dentists who volunteer to help those in need.

Among the many positive takeaways from these articles is that dentists love to help people.

Empathy is clearly a common trait of any sound medical professional. But how do dentists learn empathy? An experiment done at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 2016 shed some light on how dentists can become more understanding.

Empathy: Walking in Patients’ Shoes

At UNC, third-year dental students are required to spend eight weeks treating patients from low-income neighborhoods around the state. The program has existed for 45 years. Even so, faculty member Lewis Lampiris began to see that students, many of whom were from well off families, were still not able to truly connect with their patients.

“I would hear things like, ‘These people are bad that come to these clinics.’ ‘These parents – they don’t take care of their kids.’ ‘They don’t feed them well.’ ‘They bring the whole family to the visit,’” Lampiris told North Carolina Health News.

Lampiris decided to put the students through an exercise in empathy that the school’s nursing students use. When Lampiris introduces the exercise to the students, he tells them frankly that no mock-up can ever truly show them exactly what it’s like to live in poverty.

“This is not a game,” Lampiris tells his students. “I want you to be aware that there are some members, some of your classmates here, who have experienced poverty. This is where they came from. For them, this is real. I want you to respect that fact.”

…be aware that some of your classmates have experienced poverty. For them, this is real. I want you to respect that fact.

To begin, Lampiris splits the students into groups, or “families,” with each group member assigned a role. He gives each “family” details about their expenses and total income as well work, school, or other responsibilities.

The families use fake money to cover bills, groceries, gas and common expenses like car maintenance, health issues, or a tutor. These bills left some unable to pay rent, and forced them to seek help from a lender or a pawn shop owner.

Empathy and Understanding Patients’ Economic Decisions

At the end of the exercise, 98% of the students said that they found it helpful. That includes Kelsey Knight Cody, who was very skeptical at first.

Cody told NC News she thought of the exercise often when she worked with patients. Now, she said, she has a firmer understanding of her low-income patients’ economic decisions.

“They may just not have time, or the clinic hours wouldn’t work out, or they couldn’t take off from their job because that would mean they couldn’t feed their family that week or they didn’t have transportation,” Cody said.


Dental Degrees – How 5 hurdles and a marathon help keep your dentist on her toes


Some students told Lampiris that they identified at once with some patients when they saw their responsibilities were very similar to the roles they had played in the exercise. He believes more medical and dental schools should do this type of exercise.

“There will be more and more people that cannot access care because of the costs associated with it,” he said. “Everybody who is taking care of folks needs to understand.”

Nice, huh? Okay, then, you know the drill…please share!

Read next: Healthy Teeth, Healthy Body

Patients who are wary of the dentist may be able to relax at last. More and more dental practices around the US now offer the type of treatment you’d see in a spa.

Could a dental spa, with things like massage chairs, paraffin wax, warm blankets and movies, make you look forward to the dentist?

Could a dental spa, with things like massage chairs, paraffin wax, warm blankets and movies, make you look forward to the dentist?

Oscar Suarez, 29, admits he used to “always get nervous” before he saw a dentist. “You think, it’s going to be long, it’s going to be painful, I’m going to have to wait,” he told Greenwich Time.

Learn more: Ways to Avoid a Painful Visit to the Dentist

Those days are gone now that Suarez is a patient of a dental spa called Tri-City Dental Care, one of several Washington state dental practices that offer “spa-like” treatments.

Before the dentist gets to work, patients like Suarez can dip their hands into warm wax that softens their skin. The calming scent of lavender fills the room. Headphones play music or a TV plays as they sit in a dental chair that massages them.

The Dental Spa Concept: Turn Dread to Excitement

“When I opened the practice, I wanted to bring a good experience to every person coming in,” said Dr. Antonio Lopez-Ibarra, who owns the dental spa. “We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair.”

We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair…

The dental spa perks at Tri-City Dental Care include aromatherapy, calm music, and loads of movies to watch.

“It’s nice that when you come to a place like this, you’re not looking toward that chair, you’re looking forward to what you’re going to experience. It throws off the edge,” Suarez added.

Not Your Usual Forms to Fill Out

Among the first practices to experiment with a spa-like experience is Double Take Dental in Orem, Utah. Along with the types of things above, Double Take Dental supplies bottled water, a warm towel, a stress ball and a cool eye mask.

According to the Daily Herald, patients who come in for an exam, to have their teeth cleaned, or to have other work done fill out an “amenities card” to tailor their visit.

“Every time someone new comes in, they look at the card, and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ For many, we almost have to encourage them to pick amenities,” said Double Take Dental office manager Jordan Davis.

Patients are More Willing to Make the Trip

The idea for the spa-like style emerged when the practice decided it had to set itself apart from competitors. Proof of success? How about patients who travel far beyond their hometown solely for this type of service?

Larry Blocker, for example, flies to Orem from Southern California to treat an ongoing oral condition twice a year.

“I flew in last night, and I fly back out tomorrow. I came just to have this done,” he told the Daily Herald. “Flying here and flying back tells you how much I like it.”

Patty Cox drives nearly 120 miles to Double Take, a trip the 66-year-old says she’ll make “until I die.”

More Talking, Less Rushing

Double Take’s patient-first style makes the staff more relaxed as well. This is due in part to the decreased significance of time limits in appointments.

Dr. Cameron Blake has worked in a number of practices and says they all felt rushed. That kept him from getting to know his patients and answering their questions.


How to Choose a Dentist – With something as important as choosing a dentist, it’s vital you make a well-informed choice.


“Here I can take the time to explain things to my patients without the rush to get to the next patient. I can take time to focus on their needs and concerns. I want them to have knowledge about all options available, so they can make an educated decision, and feel good about their decision and its result,” Dr. Black said.

With more and more practices popping up, you can only expect patient experience to become an even bigger priority for dentists looking to cement loyalty and brand awareness.

Know someone who would love to try a dental spa? Go ahead — share!

Read next: 4 Most Overlooked Oral Health Problems

Frequent pot users seem more likely to display signs of gum disease than those who abstain or smoke marijuana less often.

Frequent pot users seem more likely to display signs of gum disease than those who abstain or smoke marijuana less often.

The effect of pot or marijuana on oral health is unclear due in large part to its status as a controlled substance. That alone has stalled much research on the plant’s uses for years.

Science has shown that cigarettes cause a slew of potentially fatal diseases. But they have yet to show a direct link between regular pot use and any single health condition.

A recent study at Columbia University (CU), though, suggests that people who smoke marijuana often may be at an increased risk for gum disease.

Who the Team Looked At

CU researchers led by Dr. Jaffer Shariff enlisted 1,419 Americans who had not used cannabis one or more times per month throughout the last 12 months. The study also had 519 people who had used pot at least once per month in the same period.

The team took variables such as income level, alcohol use and tobacco use into account. Each participant had a dental exam to look for symptoms of gum disease. These include plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.

Pot Use and Oral Health: Interpreting the Results

The team found that frequent pot smokers were more likely to display signs of moderate to severe gum disease than those who had abstained or those who had used pot less often in the last 12 months.

“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Shariff.


5 Positive Oral Health Benefits – Learn why keeping your dental appointments can help boost your chances for a bright future.


The researchers aren’t sure what it is about pot use that could reduce oral health. Some ideas include the fact that smoking marijuana can lead to dry mouth, and gums need saliva in order to stay healthy. Pot users may also be less likely to seek health services of any kind.

Dr. Shariff plans to do more studies that might shed some light on marijuana and its link with oral health.

If you found this post useful, why not share it with your friends?

Read next: Dental Inequality in America

The benefits of seeing your dentist every six months stretch far beyond simply having healthier, better-looking teeth. Oral health is directly connected to your overall wellbeing. Every time you make a dentist appointment, your chances of enjoying the future increase.

The truth is, some of life’s best rewards will most likely go to people with good oral health. Here are just five rewards, all of which are much harder to get if you don’t take care of your teeth:

1. A Longer Life

happy retirees on the beach - oral health benefits

Regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and oral health exams confer benefits that can help keep you smiling for years.

When you see your dentist often, you lower your risk for a large range of ills. If left untreated, oral bacteria causes gum disease and tooth decay. It can even enter the blood and spread plaque through the body.

Depending on your family history, this could put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and cancer. It can even lead to diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Here’s the thing, though. Oral bacteria are incredibly easy to eliminate. Your dentist can help you to stave off these diseases through the benefits of regular exams and cleanings. That is, as long as you manage plaque build up by keeping your regular dentist appointments.

2. Higher Income

Speaking of benefits, research has shown that people with great teeth and smiles are more likely to earn higher salaries and get more job opportunities than people who seem to view their smile as less of a priority. One study used fake job interviews and found that those who had the best smiles were viewed as more confident and skilled.

Learn more: Dental Inequality in America

This isn’t much of a surprise, though. It’s only natural for someone with good oral health to be seen as serious, disciplined, and concerned about his or her effect on others. So, if you want to make your dream job a reality, it can help to keep up with regular dental visits.

3. More Money in the Bank

People with good oral health tend to have lower bills as they get older. The cost of regular dental visits to prevent problems is a fraction of the cost for the type of reactive care patients who have advanced gum disease may need.

Infographic: Prevent vs. Repair – See why it pays to invest in protecting your teeth.

4. Less Stress

When you work to address oral health problems head on, there is less need to worry about the state of your teeth. People who never skip the dentist also have to worry less about certain foods or beverages causing pain or long-term damage.

With some types of oral health issues, cold or hot foods or drinks can be a problem. When you see your dentist often, she can help you to manage the effects of sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which may be the cause. Lastly, if you have a lot of stress, your dentist will know, and be able to tell you, what you can do to help.

5. Better Love Life

Not only will people who take care of their teeth stay attractive to their partners, but they will also have less difficulty finding romantic partners. In fact, a 2013 survey of nearly 5,500 single adults ages 21 and older revealed straight, white teeth to be the quality single men and women look for most when choosing a mate.

When you visit the dentist every 6 months, you won’t be as worried about your partner seeking greener pastures. And who knows? You may even be able to win over the object of your affections, regardless of your age.

How Much Brighter Could Your Future Be?

Sounds like a happy life, right? You can gain these rewards and a lot more if you simply go to the dentist and follow through with their advice and care.

Missing just one or two appointments might not seem like a big deal. But as you age, you may grow more conscious of how your teeth look and feel. So think of your long-term health and financial strength, and stick to your regular dental exams!

Read next: 4 Most Overlooked Oral Health Problems

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 as 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 the cycle 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.

Read next: 5 Reasons Healthy Smiles Lead to Success