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How to Manage Oral Health Issues in a Person with Mental Illness

Posted on 2/15/2024 by Janice K. Pliszczak, DDS
Image of a woman smiling, looking at the mirror. Poor oral health is bad for every individual, even those suffering from mental health disorders. Poor oral for mentally ill persons is considered even more risky because of their constant intake of medications. Taking antipsychotics, lithium, and antidepressants comes with side effects like dry mouth, which increases the risk of plaque for mentally ill patients. Given that mentally ill persons cannot always decide to brush and floss regularly on their own, their primary caregivers take on the responsibility of managing their oral health issues.

Create a Comfortable and Safe Environment

Creating a comfortable and safe environment as part of the oral health care routine for a person with mental illness means making them feel at ease and without any anxieties. As a caregiver, check ahead of time that the dental office can often play soothing music and ensure a clean and calm atmosphere to help reduce anxieties enough to allow them to attend to the patient.

A Patient-Centered Approach

Managing the oral health issues affecting persons with mental illness requires a patient-centered approach. All patients will present different kinds of challenges. A dentist can help each patient by actively listening to them, understanding their concerns, and tailoring care to meet those specific concerns. Making a mentally ill patient feel in charge reduces their anxieties, which improves the outcomes of every oral health intervention.

Consider Sedation

Some mental health patients might be unruly and hard to communicate with. When such patients refuse any oral health interventions, it is best to consider sedation for them to receive dental care. As a caregiver, you must work together with the dental professional to ensure that the most appropriate sedation is enough to complete an oral health procedure.

Key Takeaways

Providing oral health care to a person with mental health illness is a daunting but rewarding effort. Poor oral health is detrimental to the overall well-being of mentally ill patients, and managing their oral health issues should happen by all means possible.

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