Oral Health Series Part I: Why Human Services Should Partner with Dental Schools

This post is Part I of a three part series on ORAL HEALTH beginning with discussing, the importance of partnering, collaborating and identifying strategies, interventions, and resources to better engage people living with psychiatric disorders about their oral hygiene.  Part II focuses on, how oral healthcare impacts socialization and Part III its impact on vocational pursuits.

I attended a university colloquium (presentation of a scholarly literature review to faculty, students and the public at large for discussion) presented by Associate Professor, Dr. Vaishali Singhal called, “Oral Implications of Psychiatric Disorders.” Vaishali Singhal, a doctor of dental medicine is currently working on a Ph.D. in Health Sciences with a concentration in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. As a dentist she is keenly interested in developing better partnerships and collaboration between medical and mental health providers. Singhal’s literature review addressed growing concerns about the accessibility of dental care for people living with psychiatric disorders with a focus on persons diagnosed with schizophrenia. Lack of oral healthcare increases negative health risks for physical (i.e., stroke and heart attack) and psychological (i.e., low self-esteem, isolation, depression) distress impacting social and vocational goals. A contributing factor to this lack of oral healthcare is the absence of training for oral healthcare professionals to better engage patients with psychiatric disorders. As a person living with bipolar disorder I know I could have benefitted from focused preventive education on oral hygiene.

I do believe mental health professionals should be interested in collaborating with dental care providers. There is tremendous financial, emotional, and physical increased risk of premature disability and death among the people we serve. Through interdisciplinary collaboration we can help better integrate medical and psychiatric needs to empower individuals like myself to balance their attention in both physical and mental health coupled with all providers strengthening engagement skills. Here is a link: Building Infrastructure and Capacity in State and Territorial Oral Health Programs (April 2000) prepared by: Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) http://www.astdd.org/docs/Infrastructure.pdf . This is a document to develop ideas from for organizational and systematic approaches.

I believe that it is important that as professionals we seize opportunities for cross training; attending seminars, and workshops outside of our focused area of expertise to collectively help strengthen quality services as an interdisciplinary team. For example, agencies can reach out to local dental schools for consultation, resources, i.e., oral hygiene checklist, psycho-education materials for varied literacy needs. Have oral healthcare listed as an agenda item for team meetings. Consider having both a dental hygienist and nutritionist as guest speakers. Identify i.e. service recipients for some formal oral healthcare training to serve as role models in residential settings. Here is a couple of links from the CDC Home page but not limited to adult and older adult oral hygiene: http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/adult.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/adult_older.htm Furthermore, a link for free and low cost dental care that may be similar in your location. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/free-and-low-cost-dental-care-available-to-underserved-through-delta-dental-of-new-jersey-foundation-grants-197520961.html

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