Effects of Tooth Loss
Tooth loss can have a large impact on your physical and mental health, both vital reasons to seek treatment. In 2014, the American Association for Dental Research presented a study of adults with tooth loss and found missing teeth to be associated with depression and anxiety. Dentists like Dr. Dale Spadafora in Hermitage, PA, one of the youngest dentists to be awarded Mastership Status by the Academy of General Dentistry, try to educate their patients on why leaving missing teeth can be so dangerous for their physical and mental health.
Studies have linked tooth loss to “significantly different” levels of increased anxiety and depression in people with missing teeth versus people who are not missing teeth. So what is the link between mental health and tooth loss?
Mental Health and Dental Health
Your mind has a large impact on your body. The British Journal of Psychology found that people who struggle with severe mental illness also have an increased risk of oral illnesses and tooth loss. People who are depressed often feel apathetic and take less care of their hygiene. This sometimes extends to not brushing or flossing their teeth, which leads to oral disease and eventual tooth loss.
Anxiety also affects dental health. People with anxiety tend to feel more stress on a daily basis, which raises the cortisol levels in the body. Lower levels of cortisol are healthy, but too much can cause health issues.
High levels of cortisol also change the composition of saliva, and a 2017 study found this has an effect on oral health. People who are overexposed to certain levels of cortisol may be at a higher risk of periodontal disease.
How Tooth Loss Can Affect You
Whether tooth loss is due to the effects of a mental illness or not, losing teeth has an acute effect on your life. Anxiety and depression can lead to tooth loss, but tooth loss affects self-confidence and mental health in turn.
The following are all examples of how tooth loss can negatively impact you.
Your smile is a large part of your appearance. Many people feel reluctant to smile due to crooked or yellow teeth, and missing teeth can be much more obvious than other flaws. Missing teeth may cause you to feel anxious about smiling and critical of your appearance.
Without a tooth in place to stimulate jawbone strength, the bone begins to weaken and collapse. This is why dental implants, like the ones used by Dr. Scott Anderson in Gunnison, CO, are designed to simulate a natural tooth root.
The weakening of the jawbone could also cause the skin around your jaw to pull away and sag. This results in premature wrinkles, making you look older.
No matter how well you take care of your skin, it will be affected if your jaw isn’t there for support. You may start to look older and lose your sense of identity due to your changing appearance.
- Effects on Social Life
A smile does a lot in social situations. Smiling affects the way other people view you, making you look more attractive and amicable. If you don’t smile as much, you might seem less friendly.
You could also feel less friendly because smiling is contagious, meaning we tend to smile more when other people are smiling around us. If you’re anxious about the way your smile looks and often try to hide it, this unspoken gesture may affect your social life.
Slurring while speaking is also common and makes communication more difficult. The crown of your tooth enables you to form words properly, as Dr. Richard Rowntree’s website explains. Not being able to speak to other people properly can impact how connected you feel to the world. Isolation and loneliness often lead to changes in mental health.
- Difficulty Eating
When you’re missing teeth, your daily life can become more difficult for you. You may have to change your eating habits due to difficulty chewing tougher foods, like steak or hard fruits.
While changing your diet isn’t the end of the world, what people eat tends to matter a lot. If you’ll be deprived of your favorite foods due to an inability to eat them, you could feel less like yourself. Many people begin to feel limited and not in control of their lives.
Chewing not only stimulates the jaw to keep it strong but also stimulates the brain. You may have heard that chewing gum improves your memory because it accelerates cognitive processing speed, but difficulty chewing seems to be linked with brain performance too.
In a study, The American Geriatric Society linked elderly people who had problems chewing with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. Missing teeth certainly can lead to trouble chewing, affecting the amount of brainpower you have.
Solutions to Tooth Loss
Dental implants are one of the forefront solutions to tooth loss. They’re generally preferred over dentures because they don’t have to be removed and can be cared for like normal teeth.
This makes it easier to maintain while helping your health get back on track. This may improve your life immensely, preventing health issues from developing and aiding in the reversal of any damage that has been done.
They also help to restore your self-confidence and get you feeling like yourself again. Though dental implants can’t cure all health issues, they are a step towards a healthier and fuller life. Research has found the dental implants improve quality of life, increasing satisfaction in many facets. Most dental implants are made to blend in, so they’re nearly indistinguishable from natural teeth.
If you get dental implants and are still concerned about your mental health, please ask your physician for a therapist recommendation to receive further treatment.