Mental Illness and Oral Health
There is a close connection between the health of the body and that of the mind. There is further evidence to suggest those who experience mental illness also suffer from poor oral health.
Some of the most common mental illnesses that can hurt a person’s oral health include anxiety and panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, self-harm, schizophrenia, and psychosis.
Some of the main issues for those who have mental illness include:
- Neglect: Research has shown that those suffering from mental illnesses tend to avoid dental care so much that their oral hygiene is neglected, resulting in gum disease and tooth decay.
- Anxiety: Many people suffer from some form of dental phobia and, as a result, stop seeing their dentist regularly. Infrequent dental visits have a severe impact on oral health.
- Eating disorders: Those who suffer from conditions such as Bulimia often experience dental erosion from the acidity in vomit. Low levels of calcium are also typical, which could affect the health of the teeth.
- Brushing actions: Over-vigorous brushing actions by those with bipolar as similar disorders could result in them brushing away the enamel on the tooth’s surface.
- Medication: They may produce adverse oral effects, especially dry mouth, resulting from reduced saliva flow.
Caregivers need to be aware of the link between oral health and mental health.
Those people suffering from mental health issues should understand the value of good oral health and be motivated to maintain good dental habits.
Three key messages:
- Brush last thing at night and at one other time during the day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Reduce the amount and how often they have sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
As a caregiver, you should also play a role in helping those with mental illness to understand the harmful effects of smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol to excess, and drug use.
By encouraging a healthier lifestyle, supporting them in a positive daily routine, and making them feel more comfortable accessing dental care, you can effectively manage a person’s oral health suffering from mental illness.