R U OK? Day - held this year on September 10th - is a national day of action to remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, “are you OK?” and have a conversation that could change the life of someone struggling with life’s ups and downs.
In line with the R U OK? initiative, we’re taking a look at how oral health can be linked to mental wellbeing, and what you can do to support someone who may be struggling with their mental health.
Oral health and mental wellbeing
The Australian Oral Health Tracker report found that there are significant links between oral health and general wellbeing, with poor dental health shown to be associated with a range of other diseases, including diabetes, dementia, and mental illness.
For people suffering from severe depression or substance abuse, factors such as a poor diet and irregular routines can often mean that oral hygiene practices - such as twice-daily brushing and reducing sugar intake - aren’t always followed.
This can lead to the development of a range of oral health conditions, including cavities and infections, which can cause pain, inflammation, and embarrassment. The result can be a vicious cycle in which persistent pain and discomfort lead to further anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
The importance of dental check-ups
Regular check-ups with a dentist form an important part of addressing oral health conditions which may be impacting a person’s confidence, social interactions, and state of mind. Dental check-ups can identify any issues early on and establish the best course of action to prevent or rectify them.
However, for people suffering from certain mental health conditions, the prospect of visiting a dentist may cause additional stress and anxiety. This can result in the warning signs of conditions such as cavities being missed, as well as a continued decline in oral health.
What to do if you’re concerned about someone you know
The message for R U OK? Day 2020 is “There’s More To Say After R U OK?”. By knowing how to continue the conversation after someone tells you they’re not OK, you can help them feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis.
To make this easier, the amazing team at R U OK? have put together a range of free resources and tips, so you can know what to say after “are you OK?”.
For more information, visit https://www.ruok.org.au/join-r-u-ok-day