May is Mental Health Awareness month. Support for whole-body wellness includes mental health and dental care as there is a correlation between mental health issues and oral health problems.
Dental practices can support their patients’ mental health by providing a positive patient journey. This includes all the interactions that make up a patient’s experience, including provider access, scheduling, quality of care and overall satisfaction.
There is also an emerging need for healthy patient engagement. Patients who aren’t engaged in self-care may lack oral hygiene and skip dental visits. Patients in a positive health environment brush and floss regularly, eat right and address dental care needs.
While there are many theories connecting oral health and behavior change, the health belief model states that if a person knows the impact of behaviors, it will influence the outcome.
Today, artificial intelligence and apps that track engagement and report health behaviors have created a new era in the traditional role of the dental team. These tools allow dental providers the opportunity to engage with an entire health care team to provide support to patients who struggle to engage because of physical or mental health and/or substance abuse conditions.
In a recent survey, GEHA members overwhelming showed interest in wellness support. Using emerging technologies may improve oral health and provide an opportunity to address this interest and provide support along the dental wellness journey.
“The Nutrition Source: Oral Health.” hsph.harvard.edu, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, December, 2022.
“Association between mental health and oral health status and care utilization.” frontiersin.org, Frontiers in Oral Health, 7 February, 2022.