New study suggests dental patients with severe mental health disorders are ‘falling through the cracks’

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A new study suggests that dental patients who have severe mental health disorders are falling through the cracks.

Researchers from the University of York found that people who have severe mental health conditions are struggling to get the oral health support they need. Patients with illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are three times more likely to lose all of their teeth than the general population. Difficulties maintaining oral hygiene and restricted access to suitable NHS dental services were highlighted as key contributing factors.

The study highlighted a lack of appropriate care as the most significant issue affecting patients who need dental treatment. Researchers underlined the need for access to mental health care staff to help individuals to maintain good oral health and additional training for dental professionals to improve standards of dental health among those with serious mental illness. Up to 90% of dental practices in England are currently closed to new NHS patients, which is causing huge backlogs and preventing patients from seeing a dentist regularly.

Lead author of the study, Dr Masuma Misha, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, explained that people with severe mental health disorders have “poorer oral health compared to those without mental illness.” The study emphasises the need to gather more information about this connection and find out why untreated dental diseases are the most common cause of non-psychiatric hospital admissions.

Co-author, Professor Lina Gega, said that physical health problems can often be overlooked when patients are going through a “mental health crisis.” The team is calling for oral health to be integrated into care plans to provide better support for individuals and reduce the risk of dental disease.

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