Mental and Oral Health professionals have launched an Oral Health for Mental Health Patients Manual as a response to health practitioners request to help improve the oral care of mental health patients in the country.
By Patricia Mashiri
The manual aims to increase oral and mental health awareness whilst equipping health professionals in the role they play in management of oral health of patients living with mental health conditions .
The project is also meant to uphold mental and oral health professionals, abolish oral and mental inequalities and pursuit of the non communicable diseases agenda in oral and mental health among others.
Represented at the launch by Mr Fabion Musoro, the guest of honour Dr Patience Mavunganidze who is the Director Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care applauded the work being done to transform oral health care of mental health patients.
There is a two way link which existed between mental health conditions and oral diseases both leading to reduced quality of life. One’s mental health affects the health of the whole body, including oral health. People who have mental health problems are more likely to have oral health conditions like teeth and gum problems,” Dr Mavunganidze said.
She added that mental health disorders can lead to some poor copying habits, like smoking , induced vomiting in anorexia, exercising brushing OCD, or tooth grinding that have negative impact on oral health.
Globally oral diseases affected nearly 3.5billion people, whilst one four person in the general population suffer from some form of diagnosable mental disorder.
Speaking to Health Times, Dr Cleopatra Matanhire-Zihanzu, the Project Coordinator for Oral Health for mental health patients project said oral health and mental health are both non communicable diseases which were in the shadows for a long time hence the need to close the gap.
“A commonality existed between the patients that has mental health and oral health conditions existed. The risk factor that predispose mental health patients to suffer from mental health conditions are similar to in comparison to risk factors that predispose oral health patients to suffer from oral health conditions.
“In effect there has actually been a motivation to say let’s use a common factor approach in addressing these oral and mental health diseases that come in the non communicable diseases category. However, in our practices we would consistently see patients coming along that had mental health conditions and in most cases these patients their conditions will be far off,” Dr Zihanzu said
Mental health challenges in Zimbabwe were also exacerbated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw most people being confined in closed settings. Most of them resorted to drug and substance abuse as a way of trying to escape from the problems they had at hand including economic challenges.
“The Covid pandemic then came through and die to lockdown and how the economy was affected. Substance abuse became an issue and it comes with oral effect. So this is why we bring about this project so that we can bring about transformation of oral health to mental health patients to international health standards, “she added
Meanwhile, Primrose Mavhezha, Director and Counselor Lipam Consultancy said, “The project enlightened us that we also need to consider the issue of oral health which is critical considering that mostly mental health patients mostly do not take care of themselves so brushing of teeth for example because difficult when they are not monitored.
“They do not also mind what they eat. Currently the issue of mental health is growing so big. Probably with the current economic situation in the country we see most parents having mental health issues because they can not take care of their Mental health issues are rising at a worst rate,”she said.
Studies have shown that persons with mental health illnesses have poorer oral health and less likely to receive oral health care than those in the general population.