​There are some population groups that are more at risk of oral and dental disease. This includes people living with mental illness, people with disability, people with complex medical needs and those with chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Many individuals may not view oral health as important or be aware of the link between good oral health and general health. They may require the support of various health care providers in their oral health care.

Effect of medical illness on oral health

It is important to discuss with your doctor/specialist any mouth, teeth or gum problems you have and any treatment a dental practitioner has advised you about.

How to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy

For everyday messages on how to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy see Healthy habits for a Healthy Mouth.

Dental check up

Regular dental check-ups are important to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy. Visit your dentist regularly as advised by your dental practitioner.

Your dental practitioner will discuss with you if you have any problems in your mouth and can give you advice on how to keep your mouth healthy.

It is important to advise your dental practitioner of all the medication you are taking.

Check to see if you are eligible for free dental care in a NSW Public Dental Service.

Some Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Centres (ACCHS) provide dental care for their patients. Each ACCHS may have different eligibility criteria and appointment processes for their dental programs. Contact your local ACCHS for more information.

People with diabetes

Diabetes can increase the risk of dental decay, gum disease and dry mouth.

Managing your oral health will help control your diabetes.

High blood glucose levels increase your risk for dental decay and gum disease.

See Diabetes and Oral Health.

People with cardiovascular disease

There is a link between gum disease and an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Poor oral health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves.

Bacteria in the mouth can increase the risk of a heart attack and can narrow blood vessels.

See Heart disease and oral health.

Rheumatic heart disease

Oral bacteria entering the bloodstream can increase the risk of complications such as inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. If your child, yourself or a family member has rheumatic heart disease it is highly important that you:

  • brush your teeth every morning and night to help prevent other infections that may damage your heart
  • visit your dentist every year to make sure your teeth are healthy
  • tell your dental practitioner about the rhematic heart disease.

For more information see the Fact sheet: Staying healthy after being diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease.

People who have had/experienced a stroke

The effects of a stroke on the mouth include:

  • dry mouth
  • upper limb weakness, which decreases the effectiveness of tooth brushing
  • tongue paralysis and difficulty speaking
  • difficulty swallowing
  • decreased mouth sensation, which can lead to mouth injury from biting
  • facial paralysis.

See Stroke and oral health.

People with disability

For information on how to take care of your oral health, please visit Advice for people with disability.

People living with mental illness

A large number of people living with mental illness may be at more risk of dental disease due to:

  • the side effects of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications
  • smoking, alcohol and drug use
  • poor dietary choice, excessive caffeine consumption and increased sugar consumption.

Dry mouth (Xerostomia)

A dry mouth may indicate you may not be producing enough saliva, increasing your risk of dental disease. Symptoms of a dry mouth include:

  • a sticky dry feeling in the mouth
  • sores in and around the mouth
  • cracked lips
  • dry, red, raw tongue
  • bad breath
  • difficulty in eating and swallowing.

It is important to keep hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.

Chewing sugar-free gum can stimulate the flow of saliva or use a spray or moisteners to help lubricate the mouth.

For more advice talk to your dental practitioner.

Current as at: Wednesday 1 June 2022