The Dental-Mental Link: When Oral Problems Arise from Mental Ones

Sugar AddictionFor Serkis Massihi, life had little to smile about. He did not have the teeth to do so, anyway.

In his bout against post-traumatic stress disorder, the 38-year-old found himself addicted to prescription painkillers. Massihi worked to overcome his addiction by taking methadone, a substitute for morphine and heroin, but it always left his mouth dry, making him crave for sugar. You probably already know what happened next.

A Lit Fuse

After only nine months, infection and decay took over nearly each of Massihi’s teeth. His once ‘beautiful mouth’ could not even make a dentist look at it. With all the problems he has been dealing with, this significantly affected his opinion of dentists. ‘They turn you down because they don’t have respect for you, they’re not getting the money they want and they certainly don’t care if a toothache’s gonna kill me’, he told The Globe and Mail.

Whilst not all dental practices behave that way, Massihi’s case may have been difficult to address by a dental facility, given that he still takes the medication that indirectly causes the decay. Fortunately, Massihi eventually found help, but not from a place people would usually expect.

More Ways Alike

One of the largest differences between dentistry and other medical disciplines is the prospect of prevention. Dentists from London-based Fresh Dental, an Invisalign provider, point out that unlike other fields where disease can emerge on happenstance, dentistry exists primarily because of patients doing (or not doing) something.

This makes dental care much harder for those who are unable to keep themselves in check, like Massihi. He needed treatment from an industry that understands his demographic – one that actually aims to help people like him. He turned to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to get his teeth repaired.

Such an institution may seem incongruous to the field of dentistry, but given the circumstances by which many dental issues emerge, this pairing of treatment and provider is one that actually makes sense.