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    Delta Dental of Massachusetts Reminds Public of the Connection Between Oral Health and Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month

    Delta Dental urges people to return to the dentist, as data shows preventive care visits still lag behind pre-pandemic levels

    May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and Delta Dental of Massachusetts is raising awareness about the systemic links between oral health and overall health, including how dental hygiene can directly impact mental health, and urging people to return to the dentist for preventive care.

    Experts note that oral hygiene and “brain maintenance” are bidirectionally linked, meaning good dental hygiene is highly protective to the brain and vice versa. We know the prospect of dental treatment can lead to anxiety and fear, and new research suggests bacteria in the mouth plays a role in diminished brain capacity. In the other direction, mental illness is associated with greater incidence of dental disease. In fact, people with severe mental illness are 2.7 times more likely to lose all of their teeth, compared with the general population.

    According to an analysis of Delta Dental of Massachusetts claims data, preventive visits per month are still down 10% from pre-pandemic levels. By contrast, visits for major services (root canals, tooth extractions, etc.) in 2021 rebounded and were at, or in some months above, pre-pandemic levels.

    “As a mission-driven organization, Delta Dental of Massachusetts is committed to building a healthier community, and mental health is an important part of that,” said Dennis Leonard, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts. “We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, and we know that a person’s overall health includes the mouth, the mind and the body. As we emerge from the pandemic, we encourage people to get back to their preventive dental care routines and talk to their dentist if they are struggling or have concerns about their oral health.”
    Several studies have shown the systemic connections between oral health and mental health, which run both ways, with one often exacerbating the other. For example:

    • In one study, those who identified as having mental health issues also reported higher rates of unmet oral health needs.

    • There is evidence of a connection between poor oral health and cognitive issues, particularly depression and dementia.

    • Having 10 years of chronic gum disease (periodontitis) was associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    • Inflammation and bacteria that occur in the mouth can have negative impacts throughout the body, including on behavioral health.

    • Many medications to treat mental health disorders, including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications may often cause dry mouth, which can promote or exacerbate oral health problems.

    About Delta Dental of Massachusetts
    Delta Dental of Massachusetts (, the largest provider of dental benefits in the state, is a leader in innovative programs that improve the overall health of members, prevent oral disease and reduce health care costs for employers, groups and individuals. Headquartered in Charlestown, Mass., Delta Dental of Massachusetts, a member of the Delta Dental Plans Association.