Most people smile when they’re happy. But the process also works in reverse: smiling makes you feel happier, and that’s not its only benefit. Smiling can also lower your stress, boost your immune system and even make those around you feel more relaxed. It can even help you in your professional career. Studies have shown that people remember faces with happy expressions more clearly than certain other expressions. Smiling and mental health are connected, just like mental health and oral health, and often the more you smile, the better you feel.
But sometimes, missing teeth can make it difficult to smile with confidence. You may feel awkward flashing your grin in photographs or opening your mouth when meeting new people.
In Australia, missing teeth are very common and are caused by a range of issues, from injury to illness to genetic conditions. If left untreated, even a single missing tooth can cause further problems in your mouth and eventually the rest of your body.
The mind-body connection is real, and unmanaged stress can take a serious toll on our health. Fortunately, smiling is one of the most affordable treatments available. So how does oral health affect mental health, and what should you know about the connection between smiling and mental health?
The Psychological Impact of Smiling or Not
Smiling creates a chemical reaction in the brain that releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine boosts feelings of happiness, while serotonin is a stress reliever. Low levels of both correspond with negative states like depression and aggression. This is where the old saying “fake it ‘til you make it” comes into the picture. Smiling and mental health are so intimately related that even forcing a smile can make you feel happier, which in turn leads you to smile naturally.
Of course, not all smiles are signs of a happy and relaxed mental state. There are actually three main types of smiles: reward (feelings like happiness and contentment), affiliation (trustworthiness, compassion) and dominance (contempt, disgust, schadenfreude). While smiling and mental health are strongly connected, the most powerful smiles are infused with genuine joy or positive motivation. These smiles release endorphins, which lift your mood, relax your body and can even reduce physical pain.
Some benefits you may receive from smiling more include:
When you’re overwhelmed with stress, a smile can make you feel better, even if you have to force it at that moment.
A stronger immune system
Stress leads to an increase of cortisol in the blood and decreases the number of white blood cells that fight infection. Because smiling releases neurotransmitters that relax you, it helps you to keep your immune system strong.
Reduced physical pain
The endorphins that smiling releases act as mild painkillers, relieving the symptoms of physical discomfort.
A longer lifespan
Some studies have associated smiling with living a longer life, and it certainly makes for a happier one.
A more positive attitude
Smiling helps you maintain a more upbeat perspective, even when you have to work at it. Smiling sends a signal to your brain that things are going well, which is another reason that smiling and mental health are so strongly connected.
Links Between Oral Health and Mental Health
How does oral health affect mental health? Just like the connection between smiling and mental health, mental and oral health are intertwined in some perhaps surprising ways.
Compared to the rest of the population, people with severe mental illness are 2.5 times more likely to lose all of their teeth. How does oral health affect mental health so strongly? Some of the biggest reasons include:
Lack of dental hygiene
Severe mental illness can make you less likely to practice proper hygiene and dental practices like brushing and flossing your teeth.
If you’re suffering from severe mental illness, you’re less likely to eat healthy or to eat an adequate amount of food.
Some antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and other forms of medication dry out the mouth and restrict the flow of saliva. This can leave the tissues of your mouth short on natural protection and vulnerable to infection.
Fear of dentists can be so debilitating it can stop people from seeking the help they need for dental issues, which then go untreated and worsen over time.
Now that you know that oral health does affect mental health, what can you do about it? How do you restore your smile and help your mental health at the same time?
Solutions for Replacing Your Smile
You don’t have to put up with gaps in your smile and the health risks they bring. Treatments exist that let you reclaim the freedom of smiling and the mental health benefits that come with it.
Some of the solutions that exist for restoring your oral health and helping your mental health are:
Dentures and dental bridges
Dentures (false teeth) are removable artificial teeth that replace your lost ones, while dental bridges replace one or more missing teeth by fixing a bridge to the remaining surrounding teeth. Both can fill the gaps in your smile but have their limitations. Especially dentures, which are not attached to your jawbone and can slip out of your mouth.
A dental implant is a screw made from a material like titanium and used to replace your tooth’s roots. An artificial tooth called a “crown” is fixed to the top, giving it a realistic appearance. If you only have one or two lost teeth, dental implants are the most effective option for you.
All-on-4® is an advanced restorative dental procedure that provides you with a new set of teeth using just four implants: two at the front and two at the back in each jawbone. Pioneered by Dr. Paulo Malo in 1998, All-on-4® has a 98% success rate, requires no dental bone grafting, doesn’t have the long recovery time of other procedures and can provide you with a brand new smile in as little as 24 hours.
Replace Your Smile at Next Smile Australia
If you’re ready to reclaim your smile and the benefits it can have on your mental health and oral health, the All-on-4® treatment may be the right solution for you. The procedure is designed for people who have lost all or most of their teeth and can’t have them restored by other means.
The team at Next Smile Australia is guided by values like honesty, empathy and trustworthiness. Our friendly, caring approach prioritises both the quality of your smile and your mental health as we make your All-on-4® treatment as comfortable as possible.
Each stage of your All-on-4® journey is carried out at one of our hygienic and medically regulated Super Clinics. Staffed by highly trained, leading All-on-4® practitioners, these clinics feature in-house dental laboratories and state-of-the-art surgical rooms with X-rays and CBCT scans. All of our clinics have been recognised as Centres of Excellence by Nobel Biocare and offer unmatched comfort and safety from the beginning of your treatment to the end.
To find out more about how the All-on-4® treatment can improve both your mental health and oral health or to book a personal consultation, get in touch with Next Smile Australia.