People affected by mental health at higher risk of poor dental outcomes

October 11, 2018 by David Stacey, University of Western Australia
People affected by mental health at higher risk of poor dental outcomes
Credit: University of Western Australia

Researchers from The University of Western Australia say more needs to be done to help improve the quality of dental health care for people who are affected by mental health issues.

In a study published this week in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 October), the researchers found many dental professionals in Perth did not feel adequately trained and equipped to best support patients with conditions.

Researcher Professor Linda Slack-Smith from UWA Dental School said while evidence indicated people affected by mental health had poor oral health outcomes, the team wanted to find out more about what the key challenges were and how dental professionals could better support patients.

The researchers carried out 16 interviews with a range of dental professionals across Perth.

"People living with mental health conditions face many challenges and we know that access to good quality dental health care is one of them," Professor Slack-Smith said.

"However through this study we wanted to delve more into the key issues and insights on what could be done to address this, by speaking directly to people at the core of dental health care that see and deal with these issues on a regular basis."

Professor Slack-Smith said dental professionals indicated there were many barriers to treating people with mental health conditions, including treating diseases that became advanced because treatment was not sought early and because of the limited capacity of some individuals to administer self-care, and an already over-burdened health system.

"The public health system is hugely stretched resource-wise," she said. "And the private health system, which employs over 85 per cent of dentists, is not always an option for people with limited resources.

"The costs of accessing dental care can be prohibitive for socially disadvantaged adults reliant on public dental care, and often incurs a fee, which is usually uncertain until treatment needs are ascertained. There are also long waiting lists."

Professor Slack-Smith said the dental professionals surveyed had indicated that to better support individuals the system had to change.

"Participants spoke about challenges of a system where the most vulnerable people, often with poor literacy, have to complete forms regarding eligibility and often complete them again the following year," she said

"If more people with are to access dental services, our evidence suggests that more flexibility is needed in how services are provided and more collaboration between mental health and dental professionals so that oral health becomes integral to primary health care.

"Clearly though, we need to support the dental professionals that treat these patients and provide systems that allow them to deliver the best possible care."

Explore further: Greater collaboration key to better geriatric dental health

More information: Clair Scrine et al. Providing oral care for adults with mental health disorders: Dental professionals' perceptions and experiences in Perth, Western Australia, Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/cdoe.12427

Related Stories

Greater collaboration key to better geriatric dental health

December 10, 2015
More collaboration between dentists and better education for carers could significantly improve dental care for residents in Perth's aged-care facilities.

High unmet need for dental care among Syrian refugees, research shows

October 1, 2018
High unmet need for dental care is causing pain, embarrassment, worry and reducing quality of life among Syrian refugees, new University of Otago research shows.

Better dental care needed for people living with MS

March 7, 2017
Many Australians living with multiple sclerosis (MS) do not receive adequate oral health care or access to dental services.

Dentist attention needed for geriatric patients

April 20, 2015
Dental schools in Australia need to adjust their curriculum to better deal with tooth challenges for an ageing population, research says.

Reduction in dental care and inferior oral health subsequent to dementia diagnosis

July 27, 2017
Subsequent to a diagnosis of dementia, the patient's contact with the dental care services diminishes and oral health is impaired. This has been revealed by a major register-based study from Karolinska Institutet published ...

The impact of ACA Medicaid expansion on dental visits: mixed results

April 3, 2017
Dental coverage for adults is an optional benefit under Medicaid, one that about half of the states offer. With thirty-one states and the District of Columbia expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ...

Recommended for you

Oral cancer prognostic signature identified

December 5, 2018
Researchers in Brazil have identified a correlation between oral cancer progression and the abundance of certain proteins present in tumor tissue and saliva. The discovery offers a parameter for predicting progression of ...

Much-needed new antibiotic shows great promise for treating gum disease

October 23, 2018
A new antibiotic being developed at the University of Virginia School of Medicine appears ideal for battling periodontal disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, according to dental researchers at Virginia Commonwealth ...

Researchers identify immune culprits linked to inflammation and bone loss in gum disease

October 17, 2018
An unhealthy population of microbes in the mouth triggers specialized immune cells that inflame and destroy tissues, leading to the type of bone loss associated with a severe form of gum disease, according to a new study ...

Periodontal disease bacteria may kick-start Alzheimer's

October 4, 2018
Long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria causes inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons in mice that is similar to the effects of Alzheimer's disease in humans, according to a new study from researchers at ...

Dental research shows that smoking weakens immune systems

September 26, 2018
As if lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease weren't enough, there's more bad news for cigarette smokers.

Regrowing dental tissue with stem cells from baby teeth

September 11, 2018
Sometimes kids trip and fall, and their teeth take the hit. Nearly half of children suffer some injury to a tooth during childhood. When that trauma affects an immature permanent tooth, it can hinder blood supply and root ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.