Mental and dental health

This month is host to Mental Health Awareness Week from 15 – 21 May, and the focus this year is ‘anxiety’. Anxiety can be a very normal emotion that we all feel, but if it is overwhelming or out of control it can become a mental health problem that may require support to manage. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems that we can face, and in a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, a quarter of adults said that they felt so anxious that it stopped them from doing things that they want to do some or all of the time.

The aim is that focusing on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week will increase awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on ways to prevent it from becoming a problem. 

      Why are we talking about it in dentistry? 

      The act of smiling really can benefit your health, and it’s in our interest to help patients feel happy and confident enough with their teeth and dental health to want to smile. Visiting the dentist might make some people feel anxious, particularly for people that may have experienced pain or trauma to their dental health, and this is something that we are aware of at Portman Dental Care. Our practices work hard to create a relaxing and calming environment from the moment you walk in the door, and our dentists will always go the extra mile to support anxious patients. Some practices are able to provide a form of local anaesthetic for longer/ more invasive treatments, which helps to ease the nerves of patients that may be worried.

        8 benefits to smiling for your health

        Despite what we might think, smiling is not just an involuntary response to anything that inspires laughter or brings joy – it can also be an intentional, conscious choice. Whether your smile is genuine or not, psychology and physiology says that a smile can affect your body and mind in a variety of positive ways, offering benefits for your mood, your health and of course the moods of people around you.

            Smiling elevates mood

            Smiling really can make you feel happy. The act of smiling activates neural pathways in your brain that impact your emotions – meaning that by adopting a happy facial expression you can ‘trick’ your mind into being happy, which works whether or not your smile is genuine. It can also cause the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are mood boosters.

            Smiling helps you live longer

            Possibly the most tempting reason to smile is that it can increase your lifespan – one study found that genuine, intense smiling is associated with longer life. Happier people seem to enjoy better health and longevity and research suggests that maintaining a happy, positive mood may be an important part of daily healthy habits.

            Smiling relieves stress

            Stress can physically impact us, including showing on our face and in our expressions. Smiling can not only help us to prevent looking tired and worn down, but it can help to decrease stress, even if you fake it with a smile that isn’t genuine. ‘Faking it’ may also help to improve your mood and ability to manage the stress that you’re feeling.

            Smiling boosts your immune system

            It may sound surprising, but smiling can actually help your immune system to function more effectively, boosting your overall health. Considering the release of serotonin and dopamine, your immune function improves because you feel more relaxed. This is worth keeping in mind regardless of whether you’re trying to maintain overall health or strengthen your immune system ahead of cold and flu season.

            Smiling is contagious

            You may have heard the phrase “your smile lights up the room”, which is a lovely thing to hear, but may also carry some truth. Research suggests that smiles are actually contagious. Your brain notices and interprets others facial expressions and sometimes mimics them, meaning that you may see someone else smile and unconsciously smile yourself.

            Smiling may lower blood pressure

            It’s thought that smiling could in fact have a positive impact on your blood pressure. Laughter specifically seems to lower blood pressure following the initial increase in heart rate and breathing. Although smiling has been proven to reduce heart rate in the face of stress, more research is needed to understand how it reduces blood pressure.

            Smiling reduces pain

            As mentioned, smiling causes the release of endorphins and serotonin – which are natural painkillers. Together these brain chemicals make us feel good from head to toe. Not only do they elevate the mood, but they can reduce physical pain by relaxing your pain, making smiling a natural drug!

            Smiling helps you stay positive

            Smiling can influence feelings of positivity, even when it is forced. Whether your smile is real or not, it still sends messages to your brain and the rest of your body that ‘life is good!’

            Find the confidence in your dental health to smile

            Our teeth play an incredibly important role in our lives, helping us to talk, chew and digest food as well as give our face its shape. And as we know, a big smile can impact our physical and mental health, which is why it’s important to take good care of our oral health.

            To keep our teeth for life, it’s important to brush our teeth twice daily, for at least two minutes at a time. Visiting the dentist at least once a year is important for a check-up of the overall health of your teeth, mouth and gums, as this can help reduce the risk of diseases such as dental decay and gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. Maintaining a low-sugar diet and keeping fizzy drinks to a minimum will also help to keep your teeth healthy.

            By keeping our teeth and gums healthy and reducing the risk of gum disease, we are reducing the chance of various disease processes developing, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Feeling confident enough to smile will also play a big factor in using your smile to manage low mood/ stress/ anxiety. If your teeth are stained or discoloured and you require teeth whitening, if you have large gaps or crooked teeth and you require teeth straightening or composite bonding, or perhaps you are missing one or several teeth and require dental implants – at Portman Dental Care we have plenty of treatments  that can help you to achieve your dream smile and feel confident enough to smile without worry, with 0% finance available*.

                There are lots of ways to get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week – one activity that the Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to get involved with to make money is to take on a skydive! For those of us who are less inclined thrill seekers, you can get involved in Wear it Green Day, partner with the Mental Health Foundation, make a donation, wear a green ribbon and download resources to share in your community, workplace or school.

                Find out more here.

                We are proud to help thousands of patients every day to love their smile and feel confident enough to enjoy those physical benefits that come with a beaming smile! If you’re interested in finding out how we can help you, contact your local Portman dentist and their friendly reception team will be happy to help.

                *Ts and Cs apply, subject to status and availability.

                  Find out more...

                  At Portman Dental Care, we provide a range of solutions to ensure your teeth remain healthy and well. We have a number of care and advice articles to help you whilst you are not in the dentists chair. Find out more below.