By Katlyn Mercer
Can Spirituality Help Improve Your Oral Health?
Doctors across the globe are coming to an important discovery: health does not only depend on our physical state, but also on our mental and spiritual states. Study after study has shown that living with chronic stress can lead to everything from heart disease to Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Studies have also shown that spirituality can play an important role in recovery from illness. Indeed, embracing a rich spiritual life and connecting with others can put us in the right frame of mind to start taking care of our whole body – including our teeth and gums.
Stress and Spirituality
Stress in America is skyrocketing, with the recent Stress in America: The State of our Nation showing that the average person worries about aspects such as money, work, violence, and the state of the nation. As argued by Carl Jung, modern urban life can be isolating and a contributing factor in making people insignificant, their lives devoid of purpose. Jung argued for the importance of spirituality. Human beings have an innate need, he said, to feel like part of a greater and meaningful whole. Failing to make room for spirituality, he noted, could lead to problems in our mental and physical wellbeing y.
How can Stress and Loneliness Affect our Oral Health?
A study by researchers at Deakin University has shown that there is a big link between dental problems and mental conditions like depression; that is, around 61% of people who had oral pain, also had depression. When we are battling issues like depression and anxiety, we have a higher risk of making lifestyle choices that hamper our oral health – including smoking, consuming a poor quality diet, and partaking in alcohol or substance abuse. We can also feel less motivated to brush and floss twice daily as recommended, or to visit our dentist regularly to spot problems before they progress to an advanced stage. Motivation is important because it enables us to seek solutions to common problems. Tooth implants can replace missing teeth, while root scaling can solve gum inflammation in cases of periodontal disease. There is indeed no reason to put up with pain, loss of function, and aesthetic issues, but we need to have the will to make a change.
Oral Issues Affect our Mental Health
The World Health Organization has stated that when we have problems such as missing teeth, gum disease, and jaw issues, it can be very difficult to feel positive and to interact with others socially. People with missing teeth and decay can be too embarrassed to smile, much less present themselves at interviews and social occasions. Oral and mental health issues are interrelated, with each having a big effect on the other.
How Can Spirituality Help?
A 2015 survey by researchers from the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center found that forming part of a religious community was the only social pursuit linked to lasting happiness – even more so than donating your time to the needy. Time called spirituality “an effective vaccine against the virus of unhappiness.” In terms of our oral health, spirituality can help in two important ways: by providing us with a sense of unconditional support (God deems us worthy of love regardless of whether or not we have health issues); and by helping reduce stress so that we can gain the mental clarity we need to put health at the center of our lives. When we feel that our life has purpose, we feel more motivated to make positive lifestyle choices that have a big impact on our oral health.
Spirituality can boost our mental health, thereby having a positive effect on our physical and mental health. Dental and oral problems can arise when we are stressed, since we can become more neglectful and indulge in risky behaviors. We know that spirituality strengthens us, but it also helps us feel more connected – which is a powerful way to keep stress, depression, and anxiety at bay.