Mental Health Issues Affect Oral Health, But Specialized Dental Care Is Available
Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with mental health issues, but because of persistent stigmas and the fear of discussing these conditions, too few people seek the treatments they need. That’s why each year, during the first week of October, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) joins participants across the country in raising awareness, fighting discrimination, and providing support. What you might not realize is how mental illnesses can impact oral health.
The Correlation Between Oral and Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues can have a significant impact on dental care. And what happens in the mouth doesn’t always stay in the mouth. Oral health and overall health are connected and interrelated in many ways. For example, bacteria in the mouth can multiply and enter the bloodstream, affecting other parts of the body. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, mental health conditions can also exacerbate dental problems.
- Oral Hygiene Neglect: Individuals dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or severe stress might neglect their oral hygiene routines. This can lead to issues like cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
- Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Many mental health issues, especially stress and anxiety, can lead to bruxism, which is the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth. This can cause tooth wear, jaw pain, and even damage dental restorations like fillings and crowns.
- Unhealthy Dietary Choices: Mental health issues can sometimes lead to unhealthy dietary choices, including excessive consumption of sugary foods and drinks. This can contribute to tooth decay and other dental problems.
- Dry Mouth: Certain medications prescribed for mental health issues can cause dry mouth. Saliva helps to neutralize acids and protect teeth from decay, so a lack of saliva can increase the risk of cavities.
- Avoidance of Dental Visits: Individuals struggling with mental health problems might avoid going to the dentist due to fear, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness. This avoidance can lead to untreated dental issues worsening over time.
- Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease: Poor mental health can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections, including gum disease.
- Self-Harm and Dental Damage: In cases of severe mental health issues, individuals might engage in self-harm behaviors, which can include damaging teeth.
- Impact on Treatment Compliance: Even if individuals with mental health issues seek dental treatment, they might have difficulty complying with post-treatment care instructions due to their mental state.
To mitigate these challenges, it’s important for dental professionals to be aware of their patients’ mental health conditions. Additionally, mental health support and therapy can indirectly improve dental care by helping individuals manage their stress and anxiety levels, leading to better self-care practices. Collaboration between mental health professionals and dental healthcare providers can significantly improve the overall well-being of individuals facing both mental health and dental issues.
Blende Dental Group: Specialists in Special Care
Close to 44 million adults experience mental illness in a given year, according to data from NAMI. Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness. Yet as we’ve seen, these individuals go without proper oral care given the lack of dentists who have the specialized skills, training, and capabilities to serve this population. It’s important to understand that you and your loved ones can get the care you need through in-home care, facilitated by advances in mobile dentistry, and the evolution of sleep and sedation options. This has been the hallmark of the Blende Dental Group. We have devoted our practice to supporting the under-supported.
Patients with unique conditions require a level of care above and beyond what can be provided in a conventional dental office. This is why 60% of our special needs patients are referred to us by other providers. The category of special needs encompasses a broad population of individuals with unique circumstances. Some are homebound seniors, some are children, some experience severe anxiety or phobia, some have physical or cognitive challenges, and others live with complex medical or mental health conditions that make dental care difficult to obtain.
Blende Dental Group is one of the few practices that is qualified to treat those issues. And we’ve been doing it for more than 20 years. Our dentists are longstanding and active members of the Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA). They lecture nationally on special needs dentistry. Our genuine compassion for the person, understanding of their condition, and grasp of its possible complications form the core of our care. Our teams are licensed to treat patients in our offices, at a hospital, or even in their homes through its House Call Dentists practice. All of our dentists are also hospital trained, have completed postdoctoral General Practice Residencies (GPRs), and are privileged at local hospitals for sedation dentistry.
If you or a loved one has put off dental care because of mental health challenges, contact us today. Blende Dental Group offers a safe, comfortable, compassionate, welcoming, and supportive environment where wellness, superior care, and predictable outcomes are paramount.
The when and where are up to you.