Patients' mental health affects their oral health

By staff writers

June 1, 2022 -- Mental health conditions such as depression are linked to poor oral hygiene and other dental problems, strengthening the link between mental and oral health, according to a report released in May from the U.S. nonprofit CareQuest Institute for Oral Health.

The report, which is based on research from CareQuest Institute's 2022 State of Oral Health Equity in America survey, as well as other literature, highlights multiple ways mental health affects oral health.

Key findings in the report include the following:

  • Adults with severe depression are more than twice as likely to report that they do not brush their teeth at least twice daily.
  • Adults with depression report flossing their teeth less often and visiting their dentists less often than those who do not have depression.
  • Adults with mental health illnesses, including depression, are more likely to have one or more unmet oral health needs and are less likely to seek care for them.
  • Depression is linked to higher levels of dental caries.
  • Periodontal disease is associated with higher scores on measures of depression.
  • Scores on measures of depression are higher in individuals with a temporomandibular disorder compared to those who do not experience chronic face and jaw pain.
  • Young adults with a history of depression are more likely to have extended use of opioids after wisdom tooth removal than those without who are not depressed.

These findings align with conclusions from a study published in April that showed worsening socioeconomic conditions during the pandemic adversely affected oral health. These conditions, like job loss and reduced income, were linked to dental pain, which was also significantly associated with worse oral hygiene habits, reduced toothbrushing, and dental visits that had been postponed.

"Our emotional state is also connected to our oral health," Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, CareQuest's president and CEO, said in a press release dated May 27. This is "why it's so important to integrate oral health into broader, overall health strategies."

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