Dental problems and alcoholism linked to mental ill-health

Researchers call for routine assessment to identify problems earlier

People with mental ill-health are more likely to suffer from poor oral health and at greater risk of developing problems with alcohol than the general population, according to new research.

An Australian study has found that people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are over three times more likely to lose their teeth because of poor oral health than the general population.

Researchers from the University of Queensland have attributed the findings to the fact that people suffering from these disorders may not be able to prioritise their oral health because of poor housing or homelessness. They may be reluctant to see a dentist or worried about the cost. In addition, the side effects of some anti-depressants can increase the risk of developing dental problems.

They argue that clinical staff caring for people with these mental health conditions should ask them about their dental health and that the Government should provide free care. A UK survey found that most psychiatric patients report that healthcare professionals have never asked them about the heath of their teeth.

Meanwhile, another Australian study, also published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, has found that people suffering from problems including depression are five times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol than the general population. People with anxiety disorders are three times more likely.

Researchers at Curtin University suggest that doctors should discuss alcohol during consultations with patients to improve access to early interventions to tackle drink problems.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (in the UK) recently published a report ("No health without mental health") highlighting the links between mental ill-health and a range of physical health and social problems. This is also the title of the Government's cross-departmental strategy which aims to reduce the estimated £105bn annual cost of mental ill-health to the economy.


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