Patients with severe mental illness lack essential dental care

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YORK, UK: Patients with severe mental illness (SMI) are three times more likely to face total edentulism than the general population, according to a new study by researchers at the University of York. The qualitative study, which was conducted through interviews with service providers and patients, highlighted the existence and causes of significant inequalities in oral health and suggested changes that could be provided by the National Health Service (NHS).

Dr Masuma Mishu, epidemiology researcher at the University of York and lead author of the study, said in a Press release“People with severe mental illness have poorer oral health than those without, and untreated tooth decay is a common cause of non-psychiatric hospitalization for this group. Our study fills the urgent need to understand the reasons for these inequalities in oral health.

Seven participants with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder, were interviewed, in addition to ten healthcare professionals, including caregivers, dentists, nurses and doctors. Participants in the first group cited the most significant barriers to maintaining good oral health as a general struggle to take care of their overall health due to SMI, limited finances and difficulty finding a dentist. from the NHS from a reasonable distance who would not let them down as a patient for missing appointments due to their mental health. Additionally, patients indicated that they needed a dental provider they could trust, particularly one that was trauma-informed and generally educated about psychological issues.

The group of health care providers interviewed made a number of suggestions to improve the experience of patients with MMS. These suggestions included better communication with patients, recognition of the patient as a whole, development of a tailored approach for each patient, and inclusion of the patient’s caregiver in their oral care plan. Healthcare providers noted that issues such as missed appointments and high workloads led to discontinuity of care.

Study co-author Professor Lina Gega, who teaches in York University’s Department of Health Sciences, said: “We are calling for oral health to be incorporated into care planning for people with serious mental health problems. Offering support such as arranged accompanied visits to the dentist can help alleviate anxieties and overcome practical hurdles related to dental examinations and treatments.

Dr Mishu presented a plan to help NHS healthcare providers create a new culture in which they can better discuss oral care and interact with patients with MMS. She explained: “Working closely with service users, carers, public health researchers and NHS partners, we want to co-design a system-level intervention for people with severe mental illness. This will be designed to encourage training and the provision of collaborative support from mental health and dental staff. Our goal is to provide comprehensive, personalized support, from encouraging personal oral health care to arranging escorted dental visits and helping with paperwork to help patients access funding. additional.

The study, titled “A qualitative study exploring barriers and facilitators to oral health maintenance and dental service utilization among people with severe mental illness: perspectives from service users and service providers», was published on April 5, 2022 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.


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