The State University of New Jersey, School of Dental Medicine (RSDM)
will lead a team of health care professionals to investigate the possible link
between mental health issues and poor oral health with a one-year grant from
the New Jersey Health Foundation.
Vaishali Singhal, D.M.D., M.A., Ph.D., Associate
Professor at RSDM and the Rutgers School of Health Professions (SHP),
and a cross-disciplinary team, including Jill York, D.D.S., M.A.S., Assistant Dean
for extramural clinics at RSDM; Ni Gao, Ph.D., LCSW and Yuane Jia, Ph.D., from
SHP; and Jay Patel, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.,
from Temple University’s College of Public Health and The Maurice H. Kornberg
School of Dentistry, will examine the medical histories of 200,000 patients who
visited the RSDM clinics between 2014 and 2019.
“The population with mental illness usually has poorer health
than the general population—and that includes oral health,” says Dr. Singhal,
who added this results in patients with mental illness experiencing higher oral
diseases and poorer treatment outcomes compared to other patients.
focus on decayed missing teeth to evaluate each patient’s oral health and
investigate disparities in oral health in patients with and without a mental
health diagnosis. They will also analyze clinic visits to determine treatment
“We would like to gather the evidence so we can develop new
treatment guidelines to treat oral diseases in this population and develop
continuing education courses for licensed dentists,” says Dr. Singhal . “One of the
contributing factors of poor oral health that we believe—and other researchers
have also found—is that dental practitioners are not very well prepared to
treat this population.”
While the correlation between mental health and dental health
has been gaining some traction in academic literature, Dr. Singhal says it is
an underexplored subject with only one or two dentists in the country focusing
on the mental health connection. She hopes the findings will help to better
prepare future and practicing dentists to treat patients with mental illness.
“I’d like to be able to do this [study] on a larger scale,
possibly with multiple dental schools involved along the East Coast,” she said.
“That way, we can actually have greater evidence to change some of the
Courtesy of Kardelen
Koldas, email@example.com, Marketing and Communications Program Manager,
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine
Published on August 10, 2022