We know there is a strong connection between good oral health and overall health, but one aspect of wellbeing that is less often associated with oral health is mental health. There is growing research that demonstrates the connection between a healthy mouth and a health mind, and vice versa.
Oral health is closely tied to mental health in a number of ways, including the impact that mental health disorders can have on oral health. Those suffering from depression are more likely to report they do not brush their teeth twice per day – those with severe depression are twice as likely to report this compared to those without depression. More broadly, adults who reported poor mental health were more likely to have one or more unmet oral health needs and three times more likely to rate their oral health as poor. Additionally, those with poor mental health are more likely to be facing financial and emotional hardships, which can contribute to difficulty accessing needed care.
The connection between oral health and mental health can originate from oral health concerns as well. Adults with poor mental health are more likely to report feeling self-conscious or embarrassed because of their teeth, mouth, or dentures. Dental fear and anxiety about oral health treatment can lead to difficulty accessing care or completing treatment and negative impacts on mental health.
In order to provide care that acknowledges this connection, dental providers and mental health providers should address the overall needs of individuals through integrated care models. Developing integrated care settings can include training and education for providers, screening for conditions that impact oral health and mental health in each care setting, and forming care networks that allow for referrals between oral health and mental health providers or co-locating services.
KOHC continues to advocate for a more integrated approach to dental care, including in medical and mental health settings. Integrating dental care can improve health outcomes and positively impact individuals’ mental health.