How Dental Health Relates to Physical and Mental Health
Weston Price, DDS, redefined the approach to dental health and directly associated it with human dietary patterns. In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price states that, it is possible to control dental caries through nutrition. He goes on to say that nutrition can provide effective control of up to 95 percent of dental caries. This is interesting today, because nutrition is associated with many health issues. It is noteworthy that Price’s findings address the importance of nutrition in dealing with dental health, besides physical and mental health.
Causes of Dental Related Diseases
In his research, Weston Price notes that the modern food consumed by the ‘civilized’ population is the main contributor to increased dental diseases. This is because the fast foods, processed sugars and fats upset many functions in the body, and leads to problems like dental caries among others.
On the other hand, the ‘uncivilized’ population, mainly living in underdeveloped parts of the world has little to no cases of tooth decay or other dental health issues. This, according to Dr. Price is because their diets contain adequate amounts of all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the body needs for optimal health.
How Dental Health Relates to Physical and Mental Health
With the mouth being a major gateway into the body, any oral disease can pose a threat to the general well-being of the body, including physical and mental health. The manner in which you take care of your gums and teeth has an overall effect on your physical health. Failure to take good care of your dental hygiene can lead to cavities and other oral issues. It can also lead to other health problems including the following:
- Oral cancer
- Dental caries
- Heart disease
But these are only a few examples of diseases that are directly connected to poor oral hygiene. Studies have shown that people with dental problems are likely to develop mental health issues such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Heart disease
- Low self-esteem
In the words of Westermeier Martin, a dentist, ‘you cannot be healthy if you have an unhealthy mouth.” This means that for you to enjoy overall health, you must also have good dental health. In other words there is a serious relationship between health and overall well-being of the body.
Physical and mental health issues related to poor dental health
According to Dr. Weston Price, the main cause of poor health in modern populations is poor dental health brought about by poor dietary patterns.
Following are some of the physical and mental health issues related to or caused by poor dental health:
a) Cardiovascular/ heart disease
Bacteria in the mouth from periodontal disease and inflamed gums can enter the blood stream and travel to the heart arteries. They cause the hardening of the arterial walls, a condition called arteriosclerosis which in turn causes an increase in blood pressure. This increases the risk of getting a stroke or heart attack. Additionally, the bacteria may reach the lining of the heart and infect it thus developing a condition called endocarditis.
b) Respiratory infections
These are usually bacterial pneumonia or acute bronchitis. They arise from prolonged breathing in of bacteria from inflamed gums and teeth into the lungs or from bacteria flowing in from the bloodstream thus infecting the lungs.
People with diabetes are not only susceptible to dental problems such as periodontal disease, but the disease can make it difficult to control insulin levels.
Not only do people with poor dental hygiene risk developing oral and throat cancer, but also other types of cancer as well. This is because poor oral practices such as use of tobacco expose the body to carcinogenic products that increase the chances of developing cancer. I worked with a young man who had been diagnosed with cancer of the mouth…right where his crowded wisdom teeth were chewing against the inside of his cheeks. The wisdom teeth were removed. The patient received some radiation therapy to the cancerous region, and the cancer went into remission.
People with dental problems such as tooth decay face a lot of ridicule in society. Some even fail to get jobs because of the appearance of their teeth. This in turn has a negative effect on them emotionally, which can lead to depression and self-neglect.
f) Anxiety disorders
This is a mental disorder directly associated with dental problems. If, for instance some teeth are missing, some people lose their confidence of speaking before others. Others lose their self-esteem while others get their speech affected. All these factors have negative effects on such people’s mental and overall health.
Dementia is characterized by memory loss. When bacteria from inflamed gums get into the bloodstream, some end up in the brain where they damage the brain cells and end up causing memory loss.
How to improve physical and mental health by addressing dental health
In his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price asserts that almost all dental problems can be adequately resolved by proper nutrition. A proper diet in his terms is devoid of the processed fats and sugars which lack essential vitamins and nutrients.
How to manage dental health?
- Avoid diets heavy in sugar. This is because bacteria thrive in such an environment which could lead to dental caries and gum diseases.
- Avoid cigarettes and tobacco products. These do not only stain your teeth, but may also lead to cancer and periodontitis.
- Mercury amalgams are probably very unhealthy for humans. Request non-mercury amalgams from your dentist.
- Root canals can be very tricky to properly disinfect. Infected root canals can be at the center of systemic disease, such as heart disease.
- Regular visits to a dentist for check-up. You get proper advice on how to maintain your dental hygiene or even how to manage any existing condition if.
- Dental filling, dentures or teeth replacement can be done to help improve the appearance and consequently improve the health and confidence of those emotionally affected by the dental problems.
- Oil swishing is the ancient Indian practice of taking a spoonful of oil (preferably sesame or coconut) and swishing the oil vigorously in your mouth for 15 minutes, then spit out the oil into the kitchen waste can. This practice can improve oral hygiene dramatically.
- Use toothpaste with xylitol, or neem, or other non-toxic cleansing agents to help maintain a neutral pH of 7 in the mouth.
As Weston Price, DDS, concluded, in his book, dental health has a close relationship to physical and mental health. It is a vital component of your holistic well-being. If you neglect your dental health, this will get back to you in various forms, including serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety; and medical issues like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. It follows that taking good care of your dental health is critical to taking good care of your mental and physical health. And the ideal place to start taking good care of your dental, and consequently physical and mental health is proper nutrition.