I have had the privilege of being a Dentist for over 30 years and I have always struggled with finding the right strategy in educating my patients on how important it is to practice good oral health. As the world slowly returns to normal, many have gone without care and different illnesses have come to light, gone untreated or discussed.
There are many areas I could discuss, but today I want to discuss mental health. Those with mental health often do not seek the care they need, for a variety of reasons. But they also may not know that mental health has a connection to their oral health. As I was thinking of writing this post, I found some very telling statistics:
- Two-thirds of people with depression reported having a toothache in the last year.
- Adults with severe mental illness are 2.7 more likely to lose all their teeth.
- Poor oral health can also affect eating, speech, and other social and psychological areas of life.
- People with mental illness are at greater risk of oral health problems because of poor nutrition and oral hygiene. When individuals have a heavy consumption of sugary drinks, tobacco, alcohol, or psychostimulants. They also often face financial or other barriers for accessing dental care.
- About one half of all dental patients experience some anxiety about their dental visits, and in some cases this leads to dental phobia, a form of specific phobia.
- Those with dental anxiety are more prone to other phobias, depression, mood disorders and other symptoms.
Because of information like this I find it extremely important to educate others on the importance of oral health and to remove the various access barriers that exist. We never want anyone to ever feel as if they cannot get the care they need or do not think dental care is important. I know many of my fellow dentists feel the same way and I implore them to educate and reach out to their patients. As many of us work in different areas (general, ortho, perio, restorative, etc..) it is important we all work cross-specialty to help alleviate any anxiety patients may have towards dental care AND help educate them on the connection of oral health and overall health.
With Virtudent we have provided teledentistry services during this pandemic to ensure our patients have not gone without the care they needed, but have been working tirelessly to update our clinical safety guidelines and to educate others on why returning to on-site services is so important. We understand that patients have faced a significant amount of anxiety with COVID and know how important it is to make sure we are there for them so that oral health related anxiety doesn’t make things worse.
As we are all exploring this new post-COVID19 world, I would love to learn from others on what tactics and suggestions they have on educating patients and on removing various barriers.