Should we consider mental health more?


  Posted by: Dental Design      17th May 2020

By all accounts, diagnoses of mental health disorders are on the rise. Whether this is due to more people seeking the help they need and getting these disorders recognised, or a rise in certain environmental stresses leading to the formation of these conditions it’s difficult to say, but the numbers are certainly growing.

Most professionals will be familiar with the effects that some mental illnesses can have on teeth. For instance, it’s not unusual to see very poor oral hygiene in those suffering from depression, and the obvious wear and erosion on teeth from those suffering from eating disorders are easy to recognise. However, are we taking mental health into account enough when treating patients?

Mental health disorder prevalence in the UK

According to statistics, as many as one sixth of the adult population have a common mental health disorder.[i] This means that millions of patients will have one of these conditions, and although some of these will make no difference to their oral health or how they perceive treatment, there will be cases where these conditions can make a big difference.

One of the most common of these illnesses is mixed anxiety and depression. 7.8% of the population are thought to meet the criteria for diagnosis of this condition, and those from lower economic backgrounds are far more likely to suffer.[ii]

What we also need to consider is other, less common, mental health problems. When was the last time you read anything about body dysmorphia? It is still estimated that as many as 1.7% of the general population are affected by this condition (so, still over 1 million people in the UK) and yet this is something that is rarely thought about when we provide treatment.

Body dysmorphia is a condition which impacts how people perceive their self-image, meaning that sufferers are likely to always be chasing an idealised version of themselves. It’s common for this condition to be accompanied by eating disorders – both those that cause people to lose and gain weight.

The quest for perfection

Patients who suffer from body dysmorphia may have healthy dentition, but want to radically change the way they look in order to buy into their idea of what perfect teeth look like. This means that they will likely start to ask for veneers or extreme whitening, and this is something that professionals need to be wary of when moving forward.

The news is peppered with stories of people who have taken their quest for perfection too far. You only need to open a celebrity magazine to see someone who has taken cosmetic treatments to the next level. Stacey Solomon famously regretted getting full veneers in a candid column written by the television personality last year,[iii] and looking at Simon Cowell’s ultra-white veneered teeth has raised concerns that the mogul might also be taking treatment to the obscene.[iv] This is not just a celebrity phenomenon, and the rise in numbers of veneers being fitted is a testament to how many people are trying to perfect their smiles with a radical fix.[v] As we all know, veneers are irreversible – are people taking the time to really consider the lifelong financial cost of these treatments as well as what it will do to their natural dentition?

Of course, not all veneers are bad. But what we need to think about before instantly agreeing is whether the patient will truly be satisfied. If they are suffering from body dysmorphia, then will veneers really make them happy? It’s likely that even perfect results may disappoint these individuals, and what can they do then? If they are dissatisfied this could easily lead to legal action, and this is a different can of worms that is better off left unopened.

A different approach

So, should mental health be considered more before providing treatment? Obviously, under our current remit we cannot necessarily ascertain whether a patient does have body dysmorphia or any other mental health condition unless they open up to us. What I think we could all benefit from is a more holistic approach to care where aspects such as mental health are more involved. Whether this is something that can be fully implemented in the future is unclear, but it is definitely food for thought.


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[i] Mental health statistics: the most common mental health problems. Link: [Last accessed December 19].

[ii] Mental health statistics: the most common mental health problems. Link: [Last accessed December 19].

[iii] Hello! Magazine. Stacey Soloman Admits She Hates Her “Fake” Teeth And Warns Fans To Stay Away From Venerrs. Link: [Last accessed December 19].

[iv] The Daily Express. Simon Cowell Teeth “Off the Scale” White Teeth Said To Have Cost £50,000. Link: [last accessed December 19].

[v] Haute Beauty. Veneers – The Rise In Popularity Due To Social Media Influencers. Link: [Last accessed December 19].

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