Published on August 14, 2023

Dental Care for Patients With Mental Health Issues

Dental health is important for everyone’s overall health and well-being. Dental health experts and orthodontists from Augusta Orthodontics widely recommend that you visit your dentist at least twice annually for dental checkups. Unfortunately, mental health patients face several barriers to accessing proper dental care. Mental health issues affect a person’s ability to seek regular checkups, maintain oral hygiene, and receive treatment.

Dental Health Challenges Faced by Mental Health Patients

Most people with mental health issues struggle with the following:

  • Dental anxiety and phobia

Generally, most people don’t honor their dental appointments because of anxiety and phobia. Fear of needles, pain, and the dental environment causes stress and complete avoidance of dental care.

  • Poor oral hygiene

Most people struggling with mental health issues have poor general hygiene. Lack of motivation, difficulty maintaining a routine, and cognitive impairments make it challenging for mentally challenged persons to maintain good oral hygiene.

  • Medication side effects

Medications for mental health conditions normally have serious side effects that affect oral health. For instance, most patients on psychotropic medications experience dry mouth, which increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

  • Limited oral health education

Lack of oral health education is a challenge that not only affects mental health patients. Many people don’t know how to properly maintain their oral health. Patients with mental health issues may ignore the importance of dental care or fail to follow proper oral hygiene practices.

Tips for Improving Dental Health Care for Patients with Mental Health Challenges

The following strategies can improve dental care for patients struggling with mental health conditions:

1. Improving dentist-patient communication

Dentists and other dental health care providers should effectively communicate with patients to address their unique needs. Creating a safe and non-judgmental space helps alleviate dental phobia and anxiety. Building rapport and trust with patients improves oral health outcomes.

Dentists should provide a safe environment where patients can express their anxieties, fears, and previous negative dental care experiences. They should also explain dental procedures and oral hygiene practices using clear, simple language that patients can easily understand. Visual aids, written materials, and demonstrations can help.

2. Collaborative care

Mental health professionals and dentists should collaborate to provide comprehensive care to affected patients. Dental clinics should have mutual referral networks with mental health providers to address how mental health issues affect oral health. Coordinated care improves patient outcomes.

3. Sedation dentistry

Sedation dentistry is a viable treatment strategy for patients with severe anxiety and dental phobia. Oral sedatives, nitrous oxide, and other sedation techniques can enhance patient relaxation. Including sedation dentistry during dental procedures ensures that patients enjoy a comfortable experience.

4. Sensory modifications

Besides addressing the psychological and emotional impediments to good dental care, dentists should also consider sensory modifications. This essentially involves creating a comfortable and calming experience for patients. Adjusting lighting, providing noise-canceling headphones, and introducing comfort items can make dental visits by patients with mental issues manageable.

Endnote

Patients with mental health conditions struggle with many issues, including good oral hygiene. Dentists should collaborate with mental health care providers to address these issues by easing their anxiety and phobia, communicating effectively, and improving their experience during dental visits.


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