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Oral Health And Mental Health – Is There A Connection?

August 18, 2015 | Posted in Dental Tips and News | Be the first one to comment



Good oral health not only improves your overall health, it enhances your self-image and quality of life.  

But does your oral health also impact your mental health? And vise versa? 

Is there a correlation?
The answer isn’t so simple.
Research shows people with mental health problems are less likely to focus on their oral health due to other issues they’re facing, such as depression and trauma. But people with poor oral health are also more likely to have emotional and self-image problems.

It’s safe to say the oral-mental health relationship is complicated. 

We’ll examine this matter more closely now… 

How Mental Illness Drugs Affect Oral Health

People who suffer from mental health problems are likely prescribed drugs to treat their symptoms. However, one common side effect of most mental illness drugs is increased dry mouth. This can impact oral health by increasing the risk of dental caries, gum disease, oral infections, and even salivary gland inflammation.   

Medication-induced dyskinesia is another worrying consequence of long term anti-psychotic drug use.  This condition is characterized by continuous muscle contraction that appears shortly after taking antipsychotic medication. Any of the body’s muscles can be affected, such as the jaw, throat, and tongue. When the throat muscles are affected (a condition known as acute laryngospasm) it can be very serious, since it can impair breathing.  

Lifestyle-Socio-Economic Factors and Barriers

People with mental health problems are more likely to have lifestyle and socio-economic challenges that can contribute to poor oral health. These may include: 
    •    Lack of understanding about oral diseases and how to prevent them
    •    Unhealthy eating habits
    •    Poor life style choices (binge drinking, smoking and drug use) as a way to deal with problems. 
    •    Bad past experiences with dentists
    •    Fear and anxiety about dental treatments
    •    Poor housing conditions (including homelessness) and lack of privacy for personal hygiene
    •    Mental illnesses, such as dementia, which can affect a person’s ability to think clearly and take care of him/herself

Any of these factors can hinder someone with mental health problems to get proper oral care. It’s important to address these issues to make oral health care more within reach for these individuals.  

How to Improve Oral Care for People with Mental Health Problems

Finding ways to make oral care more accessible and providing better education about dental hygiene are the best ways to improve oral health for people with mental health problems. Mental and dental health are closely linked since physical wellbeing has an impact on mental wellbeing and vise versa. Promoting and ensuring good dental habits is especially vital because mental health problems can seriously impede daily function. 

Advice on healthy eating and importance of proper lubrication to alleviate the dry mouth symptoms are crucial to relieve the unpleasant oral side effect caused from mental medications. Highlighting the harmful effects of smoking, heavy drinking and drug use will also help people to make healthier life style choices.  

More collaboration between dental care, mental health, and social care segments is needed. This will help dental professionals to understand the major diagnostic conditions and how to better treat people with mental health problems. This will also help them feel more comfortable receiving dental treatment.  

Simply put, more needs to be done to ensure everyone is getting proper dental care. Because everyone deserves a healthy beautiful smile.  

Do you have any suggestions yourself? 

We’d love to hear them in the comment section below.  


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