Study Links Relationship Insecurity to Oral Health Habits

November 16, 2016
Joe Hannan

A new Australian quality of life study finds that adults with higher levels of insecurity in their relationships exhibit poor oral health behaviors, such as skipping regular dental check-ups, when compared to those with lower levels of insecurity.

If you notice that one of your formerly regular patients has suddenly begun to skip check-ups, their relationship might be to blame.

A new Australian quality of life study finds that adults with higher levels of insecurity in in their relationships exhibit poor oral health behaviors, such as skipping regular dental check-ups, when compared to those with lower levels of insecurity.

The study, which was published in the latest edition of Quality of Life Research, applied adult attachment theory to dentistry to determine whether insecurity within adult relationships can affect “oral health-related quality of life,” “oral health behaviors,” and “self-rated oral health.” According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, adult attachment theory can be loosely defined as an attempt to understand the continuum of attachment that begins at birth and runs through adult life, fulfilling the need for humans “to seek and maintain a few intimate relationships.”

In an interview with MedicalXpress, researcher Grace Branjerdporn, PhD, is quoted as saying, “We determined that those who tended to avoid emotional intimacy, or worried their partner would not be available to them in times of need, were more likely to have negative oral health outcomes. … On the flipside, you could say having a love life where you trust the other person and have higher self-worth leads to better dental visiting habits, more confidence related to your teeth and appearance, and rating your teeth better."

The sampling for the study included 265 healthy adults. Researchers collected information on their attachment patterns as well as the previously mentioned oral health factors.

Researchers found that indicators of attachment insecurity corresponded to “lowered use of favorable dental behaviors,” and decreased oral health-related quality of life. Additionally, avoiding attachment could also be linked to “diminished self-rated oral health.”

“This study supports the potential value of an adult attachment framework for understanding a range of oral health parameters,” the study concludes. “The assessment of a client’s attachment pattern may assist in the identification of people who are at risk of diminished (oral health-related quality of life), less adaptive dental visiting behaviors, or poorer oral health.”