The Growing Understanding of the Oral Health/Mental Health Link

Of all the fields of medical science, mental health tends to be one of the most sorely neglected. Every year people who could sorely use proper treatment at the hands of a therapist are unable to receive it. How does this connect to oral health? Mental health concerns can touch every area of our lives, and that includes our oral health. Unmanaged mental health concerns tend to correlate strongly to failing health and neglect of dental hygiene. There is growing evidence that mental concerns can be impacted by uncontrolled periodontal disease through the spread of infection in the bloodstream.

Studies Reveal Mental and Oral Health Connections

There has been a growing incidence of patients with mental health concerns experiencing greater dental health concerns. Studies suggest that this is partially due to self-management techniques used in lieu of being able to receive proper mental health care. Both the dentist and the patient must remain actively aware of the state of the oral health of the patient. Without understanding the impact mental health can have on dental hygiene practices, it’s difficult to ensure proper care.

An impressive body of references was explored by a study in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry looking for a link between oral health and mental health. Conditions like depression were found to have a high correlation with health conditions, including poor dental hygiene. There were also results showing that issues with dental health can also result from overzealousness brought on by manic episodes resulting in bleeding or damaged gums and teeth. This is just one more way that mental health directly impacts our oral health.

How Patients and Dentists Can Find Solutions Together

With this growing understanding of how oral and mental health connects, new solutions need to be found to help patients get better dental care. Dental offices all over the country are expanding their services to include accommodations for those suffering from mental health concerns. This is accomplished by coordinating with these patients to find solutions that work for everyone.

  • Improved Communication: Patients and dentists who stay informed can create powerful relationships that can help overcome the interference in oral health caused by mental health. Patients should ensure their dentist is aware of their medical history and medications, while dentists should research their patient’s conditions to learn how to accommodate them.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Visits to the dental office tend to generate a significant amount of anxiety, especially in combination with certain mental health conditions. Sedation, music, sound-canceling headphones, and aromatherapy are all options that may help the patient.
  • Informed Awareness: Both patient and dentist need to remain proactive about the availability of dental care options and understanding complicating conditions. With this information, they can work towards forming an effective solution.

The ability to receive proper oral health care has been impacted by the stigma surrounding mental health. Solving this issue requires working to understand these conditions and forming relationships with our health care providers that help find solutions.