Bad oral health is stress related, say experts

Scientists are saying that people with bad oral health are increasingly likely to have anxious personalities.

Researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, studied more than 1,000 participants between the ages of 15 and 32 and discovered around a quarter of them had dental anxiety.

The participants were divided into groups:
• people who had experienced dental anxiety throughout their lives (stable anxious)
• people who became dentally anxious as a teen (adolescent-onset anxious)
• people who became dentally anxious as an adult (adult- onset anxious).

The stable anxious participants had all experienced tooth decay around the age of five, the adult-onsets had lost teeth around the age of 26 to 32, and teen-onsets had their issues at around 15 years old.

Dental anxiety was classified as those people that were so scared to visit the dentist that they would evade treatment at all costs until the situation became really serious.

Professor Murray Thomson, who led the research team, examined the characters of the dentally anxious participants and found they usually had a ‘glass-half-empty’ approach to life and usually were anxious about several things – heights, spiders etc.

He said that usually people become increasingly anxious through constantly steering clear of the dentist until their dental situation became much worse.

The professor made the point that by this time the anxious patients would need the more unpleasant treatments that then reinforced their anxiety and would push them to further limits to avoid the dentist when new problems arose.

It was found that the stable anxious group would have around 22 missing, decayed or filled teeth by 32-years-old, when non-anxious people would have around 13.

The study also discovered that some people became dentally anxious as a teen but became less anxious as they got older.

Only 13 participants fitted into this category and the researchers now want to examine this group further.

Professor Thomson claimed that the research has implications both for dental professionals and the public as it gave dentists an idea of the causes of dental anxiety.

He said that it was important that the public understood the more they avoided the dentist, the more they would become scared and that more damage would be done to their teeth.

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