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Mon, Jan. 20

The dental and mental health connection

The Arizona Department of Health Services has implemented quarterly initiatives that address a physical health issue in combination with a mental health issue. The educational information available this month at centers on how dental health can be connected to and impacted by one's mental health.

Having healthy teeth can make a person feel good and increase self-esteem. Dental health is part of one's whole health and quality of life. Environment, drug use and personal habits impact dental health. For example, stress and anxiety can cause mouth sores, clenching of the teeth and teeth grinding, unhealthy eating routines or poor oral habits.

Certain prescription medications may cause dry mouth, which may lead to cavities, poor nutrition, speech and/or taste difficulties. Illegal drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin may result in poor dental hygiene because of poor self-care habits and the drugs' effects. Meth users are nine times more likely to get tooth decay as non-users. This is five times the number for heroin users and four times that for cocaine users.

A behavioral health medical provider can discuss different options to reduce dry mouth or other conditions. He or she also may provide tips or a referral related to proper dental care.

Proper dental care can help you avoid:

• Gum infections

• Gingivitis

• Cavities

• Tooth loss

• Many other oral diseases

Proper dental care can also save your life. Harmful bacteria from your mouth can enter the blood system and lead to heart disease and stroke.

What is proper dental care? It begins with good habits - brushing and flossing teeth at least twice a day for two minutes. It also includes regular checkups, low sugar intake, good nutrition and eating habits, and being watchful of side effects from medications. Having good dental care can help reduce the occurrence of cavities, oral infections and gum disease. This will also help you keep your teeth.

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