The Tie Between Oral and Mental Health

Depressed woman at kitchen table

Mental health has remained one of the most neglected areas of public health, as the lack of comprehensive, affordable treatment for patients has lead to a steady decline in people’s overall health. Oral health has been an ever-present problem among people everywhere. Still, by observing the potential correlations between illnesses and how they develop, we as physicians can treat those with mental illness on a more profound level. Some studies have looked into the connections between oral health and mental health and found that the connection isn’t as far fetched as it seems.

An Overlook of “No Mental Health Without Oral Health”

Poor physical health often faced by those with mental illness has been an ever-growing problem. Because of the many complexities presented with how people address mental illness, less attention has been paid to how mental health influences oral health, or vise versa. Oral health encompasses both cooperative effort on the patient’s part and the dentist’s active awareness to be successful. Still, if mental illness isn’t taken into account, it could potentially lead to more drastic problems in the future with people’s ability to gain access to the services they need.

According to The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the journal observed the various dental conditions often affected by those with mental illness and then made an observational connection between mental illnesses and oral health problems. Through numerous references, researchers found that mental illnesses such as depression can lead to the neglect of their teeth, even with anti-depressants as a form of treatment. On other ends of the spectrum, manic episodes can induce abrasions and lacerations to the teeth and gums. Those with serious mental illness forms often present severe forms of decay and gum disease, all of which are affected by the medications taken, access to dental services, and often unchecked symptoms.

With many of these implications in mind, poor oral health can lead to a worse quality of life, with the effects of mental illness only exacerbating the issues even more. Social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and isolation can potentially occur with untreated oral health and untreated mental illness. As medical professionals, the study suggests that both dentists and mental health clinicians should consider both physical health aspects when assessing and treating patients.

What Dentists Can Do For Their Patients

Dentistry aims to help their patients with their oral health. Still, as society begins to remove the stigma around mental health, dentists trained in handling patients will often present these best qualities:

  • Clear Communication: While communicating with patients, gaining informed consent, understanding their medications, and assessing their medical history before and during treatment is vital for bringing about better experiences for their oral health care
  • Relaxation Techniques: During moments of panic or anxiety, dentists can help provide relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, encouraging questions, and using aromatherapy can provide relief during those moments.
  • Informed Awareness: Dentists that are aware of mental health can take proactive initiative with their patients, informing them about their procedures, providing advice for oral care routines, and taking proactive solutions for better oral health.

Taking these simple approaches can help continue to remove the stigma around mental health and place higher importance on oral health. The potential connection between these two aspects can make greater strides towards more affordable access to healthcare.