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Exploring The Effect of Our Mental Health on Our Oral Health

Woman Displaying Model With Tooth Pain

Mental health stands as the neglected child of medical science, resulting in it being one of the least studied aspects of our overall health. Getting proper care is difficult, with comprehensive treatment being out of the reach of many patients. Health problems among mental health patients are greater than average, and this includes dental health problems. Neglect resulting from unmanaged mental health concerns is strongly correlated in both cases. Further, studies of gum disease have resulted in evidence suggesting that uncontrolled periodontal disease may affect our mental health due to spreading infection.

Evidence-Based Connections Between Oral And Mental Health

The ratio of mental health patients with dental and overall health concerns seems to be on the rise. This results, in part, from the increasing difficulty in receiving mental health care and the techniques applied by these patients to self-manage. In order to be able to receive proper dental health care, it’s necessary for both the dentist and patient to be actively aware of the patient’s oral health. Awareness of mental health and its impact on oral health can help both parties ensure necessary care is received.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry carries a number of studies that observed numerous dental health conditions found in those with mental health concerns and worked to determine if they were connected. A plethora of references was found that suggested that mental health concerns, including depression, can result in neglect of oral hygiene and other health conditions. That being said, neglect isn’t the only area where concern has been raised. Manic episodes can result in patients being overaggressive in their oral hygiene, actually damaging their teeth from overbrushing. This is another sign that mental health must be understood and accounted for in dental health practices.

What Dentists Can Do To Aid Their Patients

Both the dentist and patient have multiple steps available to them for addressing concerns that are the result of mental health. A growing number of dental offices provide services that are safe and accommodating for those with mental health concerns. They often coordinate with their patients in the following steps:

  • Improved Communication: Informed patients are the best patients, and dentists should be striving to make information available and that they are up to date on their patient’s medications and medical history.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Managing anxiety is a common concern for dental health patients, with mild sedation often being used to help those having difficulty doing so. In addition to sedation, aromatherapy, music, and sound-canceling headphones are often applied.

  • Informed Awareness: Proactivity from both the dentist and patient can ensure that information about their oral care is available and understood. They can then work together to determine the best way forward for ensuring proper dental care is received going forward.

The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly fading, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and then. Working with your medical providers and dentists will help this stigma become a thing of the past.

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