Most of us know that mental health and dental health can have some significant links. With recent tumultuous world events, mental health is under the microscope now more than ever. So what are some important mental health considerations when it comes to dental health?

1. Anxiety

This is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting Australians. General anxiety can be associated with dental anxiety and avoidance of dental visits. Putting off dental visits longer and longer can not only make the dental problems worse, but can escalate the anxiety associated with visiting, as fear of the unknown can begin to take over. We are heartened at how often our patients have assumed the worst case scenario after avoiding the dentist due to years of dental anxiety, only to be pleasantly surprised when they come in. This is truly one of the most rewarding parts of being a dentist!

2. Neglect

Sometimes mental illnesses can lead to neglect for self-care including dental hygiene problems. This is something that can take time to get back on track, but there are lots of easy ways to make an achievable start on this such as integrating sugar free gum and using the ’nudge’ principle of health behaviour change.

3. Obsessive Conditions

Obsessive conditions can create problems on the other end of the scale in that some patients with mental health conditions will be driven to over-brush their teeth. This can cause damage to certain areas of the mouth that are traumatised from such habits. These conditions are often managed in combination with medical professional input.

4. Medication Effects

Some medications used to treat mental health conditions can create oral side effects. One of the most common effects we see is drying of the mouth. This reduced saliva flow can leave patients more susceptible to decay and tooth damage. This will often mean some special additional precautions need to be taken to offset this risk. Things like special toothpaste or oral lubricants can provide comfort and protection for these patients, but each management plan is based on the unique patient situation.

Self-medication using illicit substances is also something that can have a negative effect on the teeth and soft tissues. This is something that can be managed as a team effort.

5. Clenching and Grinding

Clenching and grinding can be associated with stress and anxiety in adults and is one area in which dental review can be an important diagnostic and management tool.

Whilst additional specific mental health conditions such as bulimia, anorexia and alzheimers can have additional specific oral health impacts, the general principle followed for each patient is to look at their individual condition and minimise the impact of any mental health challenges on general oral health. This often consists of simple measures that can make a long term positive impact.

If you are concerned about how your mental health is affecting your dental health book a consultation with Dr. Kate Amos or Dr. Sam Rosehill 6652 3185 or book online.