Dental and Mental Health Linked

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Depression and anxiety possibly related to tooth loss

March 25, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Could tooth loss present more than just an oral health problem? New research suggests dental hygiene could have a broader impact on well-being.

Anxiety and depression may be linked to tooth loss, which includes everything from cavities to gum disease, according to a new study.

The research described a circular cause and effect relationship. That is, people nervous about going to the dentist might not go, leading to tooth loss. Similarly, people with depression may not take very good care of their teeth, also leading to tooth loss.

"See a dentist on a regular basis."

R. Constance Wiener, PhD, DMD, of West Virginia University’s public health program, led this research, which has not yet been published.

Dr. Wiener and colleagues used data from a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey based on telephone responses of 451,075 participants.

From there, these researchers narrowed the group down to respondents more than 19 years old and who gave complete responses on depression, anxiety and tooth loss questions.

Of the 76,292 eligible participants, 13.4 percent reported anxiety, 16.7 percent reported depression and 5.7 percent reported total tooth loss.

Dr. Wiener and her team found greater instances of tooth loss in people who also reported anxiety and depression when compared to people who didn’t report feeling anxious or depressed.

In the study's abstract, submitted to the International Association of Dental Research, the researchers described the link between tooth loss and anxiety and depression.

"Several biopsychosocial factors are involved, including accessing care. Individuals reporting dental anxiety may avoid dental care; and individuals with depression may be negligent in self-care," they wrote.

Dr. Wiener presented her research on March 20 at a joint annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Dental Research and American Association of Dental Research (AADR). All research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The AADR, based in Virginia, is a nonprofit organization comprising some 3,600 members focused on improving oral health.

Grant funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Dr. Wiener did not report any relevant conflicts of interest related to this research.

Review Date: 
March 25, 2014
Last Updated:
March 26, 2014