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teeth and mental health

How your teeth can affect your self-esteem

How we feel about our teeth can really affect our confidence. As a third of adults admit to being unhappy with their smile, dentist Dr Steve Preddy explores how our oral health plays an important role in our mental well-being.

In today's digital age, where social media is an integral part of our everyday lives and often held responsible for portraying an 'ideal' body image, it's no surprise that more than ever people are questioning their looks and losing confidence in themselves. People are seeing the world through a filter, and that's not healthy.

Sadly, negative body image is becoming more prevalent and starting at a younger age, leading to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. There are many different factors influencing the way people feel about themselves, including the way their teeth look. Indeed, teeth are one of the first things someone will notice about a person, as well as being the most memorable. What's more, people tend to associate those with bad teeth with a bad diet, or an unhealthy lifestyle.

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Do you cover your mouth?

As a result, a mouth that doesn't look ‘perfect’ - which includes everything from a misaligned bite, tooth decay, crookedness, discolouration, and missing teeth - can take its toll on someone’s mood and emotional state. Research from Bupa Dental Care found that over a third of UK adults aren't happy with their smile; with 27% avoiding showing their teeth when they smile, 22% avoiding having their photo taken and 18% feeling the need to put their hand over their mouth when smiling.

Without having a bright, confident smile, it can be hard for people to feel good about their appearance in public. This is demonstrated by the rise of orthodontic procedures, with more and more people opting for treatment to achieve perfect teeth.

The dangers of avoiding the dentist

Beyond vanity, people with poor or neglected teeth are more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay or mouth infections. As a result, they may well face difficulty eating and speaking, as well as suffering from continual pain and chronic bad breath, causing further embarrassment and intensifying social anxiety. Poor dental health has even been linked to a higher rate of death from heart attack and stroke.

That's why keeping your mouth in tip-top condition is a vital part of personal care and a key component in increasing confidence and self-esteem. Cracking a confident smile can go a long way in making you feel good on the outside, as well as on the inside. It's mainly thanks to the release of endorphins when you smile, which have many great health benefits, from lowering stress levels and boosting your immune system, to helping your heart, and even making you more sociable, approachable and personable.

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Start smiling again

To help build a confident smile, people should follow this advice:

Move booking your dental appointment to the top of your to-do list

It's easy for busy lives to get in the way of booking check-ups but if you are feeling unhappy about the way your teeth look, speak with your dentist about what can be done to help.

Make friends with your hygienist

One third of adults say they have never seen a hygienist, but they are an important part of the dental care team. They can give you really useful advice on how to brush and floss properly, and how to maintain a health and happy smile.

Prevention is better than cure

To maintain healthy gums and teeth, brush twice a day for two minutes, floss and make sure you have regular dental appointments. As well as looking after your teeth, dentists can help identify early signs of other conditions such as mouth cancer, type 2 diabetes and stress and spot issues you may not have even realised existed.

Dr Steve Preddy is head of Clinical Services at Bupa Dental Care

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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