Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. PTSD is a serious condition that can develop when a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. Usually the body is able to recover to normal levels of hormones and chemicals the body releases due to the stress. But with a person with PTSD the body keeps releasing the stress hormones and chemicals. An example of PTSD could be a soldier whose been to war.
For a person with PTSD, the anxiety and over whelming thoughts of the event can continue and even increase over time. There are three types of PTSD symptoms: Reliving the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity, Avoidance, and Hyper arousal. Treatment for PTSD involves talk therapy (counseling), medicines, or both. The feelings felt by PTSD patients become so strong that many aspects of the individual’s life can be affected. Performing a simple task, like brushing their teeth can become overwhelming (A. D. A. M. Medical Encyclopedia, 2013).
Research conducted by periodontists from the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine shows that patients with long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), showed significant erosion of tooth surfaces. A group of 40 PTSD patients who had been diagnosed with 100 percent disability, were taken from the VA Medical Center and compared to a group of patients that did not have the disorder. The patients with PTSD had significantly more tooth plaque and gingivitis. Doctors suspect that this could be caused because of their illness, the patients are unable to carry out good oral hygiene compared to the non-PTSD patients.
Also the PTSD patients were found to suffer from bruxism and clenching which can be related to extra daily stress they feel. Participants received an oral examination and evaluation of tooth wear. Results showed significantly increased wear of tooth surfaces in three dimensions near the gum line, vertical, horizontal and depth in those with PTSD. PTSD patients showed vertical erosion was more than three times greater, horizontal was more than four times greater and depth was more than 10 times greater than the patients not having PTSD (Baker, 2001).
Extra considerations need to be taken for dental patients being seen with PTSD. As dental hygienist’s special treatment planning may be needed due to the greater dental and behavioral challenges the PTSD patients may present with. Special attention must be paid to health history questions and getting as much background information of the patients initiating factors, diagnostic criteria, and medical management of the PTSD, so the dental team can better understand and manage the patient.
Also, it is extremely important to prevent further loss of tooth structure and surfaces. Together the dentist and hygienist need to work together to rehabilitate the damaged areas. Different recommendations can be made to patient to help with dental issues such as a night guard to help with bruxism and a frequent recall for dental cleanings to help battle the problems caused by poor oral hygiene. As with all patients’ encouragement and being understanding of patients’ needs is very important (Wright, 2004).