Access to dental care and dental ill-health of people with serious mental illness: Views of nurses working in mental health settings in Australia

Brenda Happell, Chris Platania-Phung, David Scott, Christine Hanley

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People with serious mental illness experience higher rates of oral and dental health problems than the wider population. Little is known about how dental health is viewed or addressed by nurses working with mental health consumers. This paper presents the views of nurses regarding the nature and severity of dental health problems of consumers with serious mental illness, and how often they provide advice on dental health. Mental health sector nurses (n≤643) completed an online survey, including questions on dental and oral health issues of people with serious mental illness. The majority of nurses considered the oral and dental conditions of people with serious mental illness to be worse than the wider community. When compared with a range of significant physical health issues (e.g. cardiovascular disease), many nurses emphasised that dental and oral problems are one of the most salient health issues facing people with serious mental illness, their level of access to dental care services is severely inadequate and they suffer significantly worse dental health outcomes as a result. This study highlights the need for reforms to increase access to dental and oral health care for mental health consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-37
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • dental health
  • oral health.

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