Mental Health and Dental Hygiene Amongst College Students

   When examining the personal hygiene habits of students, there is a large gap that compares mental health of college-aged students and personal hygiene. The social isolation caused by COVID 19 as it relates to mental health and dental hygiene is immense. One study emphasized a “significant association between common mental health disorders and tooth loss; individuals with common psychological disorders had higher rates of decayed, missing, and many dental issues. There is relationship between poor oral health and severe mental illness” (Tiwari et al., 2022). Evidence has also suggested that students who suffer from mental health disorders often underutilize dental services. Some reasons are “stigma, low self-esteem, lack of income and health insurance, and anxiety.” (Tiwari et al., 2022).

   Oral hygiene is pivotal to the health of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the mouth is the entry point to the digestive tract, bacteria that enters there can cause serious diseases. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can cause oral infections, that can lead to serious problems throughout the body (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2021).

   A correlation between certain medications and their effect on oral health, such as decongestants, painkillers, and antidepressants can reduce saliva flow. (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2021). Students who already experience mental issues are predisposed to deteriorating oral health while on antidepressants. Zooming out to general lifestyle habits, students “tend to have unhealthy lifestyle habits due to changes in environment, schedules and freedom of choice for their own lifestyle” (Ruiz-Hernández et al., 2022), which can then circle back to poor personal hygiene.

   The increased isolation for those in their college years had significant impacts on mental health, with loneliness due to decreased in-person interaction becoming a major source of mental health decline amongst students in the prime pandemic years. Staff support for self-care initiatives on campus, as well as access to oral healthcare and other primary care for free or reduced cost to students are some initiatives that can go a long way to encourage students to practice personal hygiene habits, but to bolster self-care in a way that is preventative.

   In the cycle of mental health and dental health problems are constantly feeding into each other amongst this demographic, the benefits to establish programs to promote student self-care, and to give students the means to care for themselves, far outweigh the consequences to the student population should these initiatives not become commonplace.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, October 28). Oral Health: A window to your overall health. Mayo Clinic.

Ruiz-Hernández, J. A., Guillén, Á., Pina, D., & Puente-López, E. (2022). Mental health and healthy habits in university students: A comparative associative study. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 12(2), 114–126.

Tiwari, T., Kelly, A., Randall, C. L., Tranby, E., & Franstve-Hawley, J. (2022). Association between mental health and oral health status and care utilization. Frontiers in Oral Health, 2.

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