In spite of the amount we hear about it in news and media, mental health is one of the most neglected areas of medical science. Access to affordable, comprehensive treatment that produces results is notoriously difficult to get. Patients suffering from oral health concerns are more likely to present with health and dental problems resulting from neglect, and evidence suggests that this relationship may go both ways. Studies of periodontal disease and gingivitis suggest that our mental health can be impacted by infection and by the self-esteem issues that result from dental concerns.
An Overlook of “No Mental Health Without Oral Health
Patients with mental health concerns have been showing physical health concerns with greater frequency with every passing year. The various methods used by patients to address mental illness, especially when they lack access to proper care, often have ancillary negative effects on oral health. Proper oral health care requires that both the patient and dentist be able to maintain active awareness to prevent and treat concerns as they appear. Without taking mental illness into account their task becomes immeasurably harder, and patients may not be getting the care they need.
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published studies observing a range of dental health conditions faced by th ose with mental illness, and observed connections between them. Researchers looked through multiple references and determined that depression and other mental health concerns can lead to neglect of health concerns, including oral health. However, neglect isn’t the only source of concern. Other patients have actually damaged their teeth as part of manic episodes resulting in overaggressive dental care routines. Concerns like these make it clear that mental health is an important aspect of our oral health.
How Dentists Can Help Patients With Mental Health Concerns
There are several steps both patient and dentist can take to address oral health concerns stemming from mental health concerns. It’s essential to find a dental office that understands the impact these concerns can have and that provides a stigma free environment. Other steps that can be taken by both patient and dentist include:
- Communicate Clearly: Patients should seek information about their care, and dentist’s should be certain they’re receiving informed consent about their care. This includes ensuring that dentist understand the medication the patient is on, and the patient providing a complete medical history.
- Relaxation Techniques: Many patients with mental health concerns may need help managing their anxiety or panic. In some cases mild sedation may be needed to help keep the patient calm in the chair. Even aromatherapy has proven successful in soothing patients.
- Informed Awareness: If both sides are proactive, the dentist can ensure that they are educated about their patients condition, and the patient can learn everything they can about their care. Advice about managing oral care routines structured around this understanding can provide effect resolutions for all involved.
These simple approaches will help eliminate stigma around mental health and ensure that proper oral health is maintained.