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Are Oral Health and Mental Health Connected?

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How are the Two Connected?
An Optimistic Outlook Could Improve Your Health
Did You Realise Your Gut Health Could Affect Your Memory?

Did you realise oral health and mental health are intimately connected? Many people are unaware of this link, and even scientists are not quite sure of the exact connection.

How are the Two Connected?

The relationship between oral health and mental health is cyclical. People with mental health problems are less likely to look after their physical and oral health. When oral and physical health is neglected, a person is less likely to eat nutritiously or to follow healthy habits.

Depression is often associated with tobacco and alcohol usage, increasing the risk of tooth decay and acid erosion. People who are depressed are less able to look after their oral hygiene and are at higher risk of developing dental disease.

Bipolar disorders negatively affect dental health. The medications used to treat bipolar can cause dry mouth or xerostomia, and stomatitis. People with bipolar can overbrush their teeth, damaging gums and abrading tooth enamel.

Poor dental hygiene can impact mental health in another way too. People who have lost their teeth or who have bad breath are more likely to suffer from social anxiety.

An Optimistic Outlook Could Improve Your Health

We all know people who always have a positive disposition, but it turns out that a glass half full approach could help improve your health. Positive thinking allows people to focus on the good things in life and a recent study has discovered it does bring health benefits.

Researchers assessed the connection between the long-term health of people with a heart condition and an optimistic attitude, using data acquired through a questionnaire. All the people taking part in the study had angina and were preparing to undergo medical procedures to improve their heart health. Astoundingly, researchers found that people who reported feeling the most optimistic suffered lower levels of pain from angina and the most optimistic were 40% less likely to need more surgery. However, people falling into this category could be more likely to engage in behaviours that would help their health, such as exercising and not smoking. Even given these variables, it is still worth trying to foster a more optimistic outlook on life.

Did You Realise Your Gut Health Could Affect Your Memory?

The exact mix of bacteria in your gut varies from person to person and is utterly unique. Your diet and environment influence it, as do any infections you may have had, even during childhood and whether you have been prescribed antibiotics.

Now it looks as if your gut health, called microbiome, is also linked to memory. A recent American study assessed the memory of mice injected with a bacterium called Lactobacillus compared to mice that hadn’t received this bacterium. The metabolic changes caused by Lactobacillus in these mice somehow helped to improve their memory. Lactobacillus is a bacterium that helps protect against pathogens and is a common probiotic found in foods such as yoghurt.

So, does this mean we should all be taking more probiotic supplements to help improve our gut health? Not necessarily because your gut health is so complicated. The recent study on mice does show memory and the bacteria in your gut are somehow linked. For example, it’s so individual that some people may thrive on ice cream while others would need to stick to somewhat healthier and considerably less indulgent ingredients like kale. Other factors influencing your microbiome include the amount of sleep you receive, the variety of vegetables consumed and even your weight. Until we discover more about the microbiome, perhaps the best advice is to eat a healthy and varied diet.