News for From your family dentist in Beaverton, Dr. Jay Slater: Children and parents living in troubled homes, where verbal aggression and violence have become a common part of daily life, tend to suffer from more cavities and missing teeth when compared to the typical household, report the findings of a new study.
Researchers at New York University discovered the parents with poor oral health often had partners that were more physically or verbally hostile to them. And kids whose mothers were emotionally aggressive to their fathers also suffered from higher rates of tooth decay and missing or filled teeth.
A Surprising Connection
Family oral health may suffer due to such “unhealthy” behaviors as kicking, hitting, insults, and threats creating an emotional environment that undermines daily routines like frequent tooth brushing or fosters stress eating, according to researchers.
When discussing their findings, researchers commented on the long history in existing medical literature that links bad home environments with poor health.
The study was conducted by researchers at New York University’s College of Dentistry’s Family Translational Research Group, and published in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Aggression ranks as an unfortunately common occurrence in American households, with 90 percent of households reporting parent-to-child aggression, coupled aggression, or both, according to 2005 study.
For the latest study, researchers analyzed 135 cohabiting or married heterosexual couples and their elementary school-aged children. The family units that participated as part of the study were largely white, with an average yearly income of roughly $100,000.
Dental hygienists ascertained the number of filled, missing, or decayed teeth by conducting a thorough oral examination, while subjective oral health was measured using questionnaires filled out by both the children and parents.
Parents were also asked to complete questionnaires regarding the levels of emotional and physical aggression that existed between partners and between children and parents, along with any harsh discipline used in the home. Additionally, researchers also assessed and rated any hostile behavior exhibited by the couples during laboratory interactions.
On average, women suffered from 3.5 more dental cavities and men suffered from 5.3 more cavities for every above-average statistical increase in their partner’s unhealthy behavior towards them, researchers discovered. Children suffered from an average of 1.9 more cavities for every above-average increase of the mother demonstrating emotional aggression toward their partner.
Researchers noted that in addition to creating havoc with healthy eating and oral hygiene habits, unhealthy family environments could also impact an individual’s immune system, which could also increase the risk of decay.
Researchers were quick to point out that their study only showed a potential link, but did not prove cause and effect. Despite this stipulation, this early research what goes on at home may have a lasting affect on an individual’s oral health.