Mental Health Seems to Impact Oral Health
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, patients with mental health disorders were more likely to have oral health concerns than the general population.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, patients with mental health disorders were more likely to have oral health concerns than the general population. The pandemic exacerbated these issues, as subsequent COVID-19 restrictions resulted in increased stress and reduced access to oral care.
To further examine the relationship between oral health and mental health, the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health conducted a nationally representative study that asked more than 5300 subjects age 18 and older to self-rate their mental health and oral health status, as well as oral healthcare utilization. The report, “State of Oral Health Equity in America 2021,” notes that almost one in five respondents rated their current mental health status as fair (14%) or poor (4%). Those who identified as having poor mental health also reported higher rates of unmet oral healthcare needs across all categories, with the top concerns being toothache (34%), swollen or bleeding gingiva (30%), pain when chewing or swallowing (25%), and frequent xerostomia (25%).
Among those with self-reported poor mental health, 47% said their last dental visit “went well, but they were nervous,” compared with 27% of subjects with positive mental health status. Additionally, some respondents with poor mental health said they were “so frightened and nervous during the dental visit that it made treatment difficult.”
From Decisions in Dentistry. August 2021;7(8)8.