Thursday, November 12th, 2009 - La Trobe University
La Trobe University today launched a free toothbrush and toothpaste campaign for regional Victorians with mental health issues.

The campaign, supported by Colgate, will focus initially on northern Victoria and includes a comprehensive education campaign for the medical and dental professions.

The campaign follows a year-long investigation into the link between oral and mental health among regional Victorians by La Trobe University researchers at its Bendigo campus.

About 25% of Australians suffer from a mental disorder. In 2003, 5.1 billion dollars was expended on dental care and it is estimated that by 2033 dental health expenditure will increase by 144%.

The research program was led by Associate Professor Amanda Kenny, Director, Faculty of Health Sciences at the Bendigo campus of La Trobe University.

It involved a multidisciplinary group of dentists, mental health professionals, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists, medical practitioners and mental health clients to develop a questionnaire to explore health professionals’ view of oral health as it relates to mental health.

‘We discovered that the mainstreaming of psychiatric care has contributed greatly to the poor dental health of many regional Victorians with mental health issues,’ said Dr Kenny.

‘When you add in the fact that most antidepressants used by mental health patients cause lack of saliva which can lead to increased plaque and calculus, periodontal disease and enamel erosion, it is easy to understand the degree of dental disease found in people with mental health problems.’

Dr Kenny said that an initial survey undertaken of Bendigo Health mental health clients showed that 10% of clients had accessed dental services on an annual basis in the previous five years, 60% indicated that their dental hygiene could be improved and 40%were currently experiencing some degree of dental pain.

‘Poor diet and heavy cigarette smoking does contribute to the poor oral health of mental health clients,’ she said.

‘What strongly emerged from our research is that too many people with mental health problems have experienced too many barriers in accessing care, including stigma, fear or treatment, financial cost and lack of services.’

‘This finding is supported by the medical and dental professions who agree they do not know how to reach or engage with people with mental health issues.

The $190,712 program was funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Rural Health Support, Education and Training (RHSET) program.

The 2004 National Oral Health Plan identified mental health clients as facing significant issues around declining oral health and poor access to dental services.

La Trobe University was the first university in Australia to establish a rural located dental school in Bendigo.

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Penny Underwood

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La Trobe University today launched a free toothbrush and toothpaste campaign for regional Victorians with mental health issues.


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