Connection Explored Between Depression, Anxiety and Tooth Loss

In "Association of Tooth Loss and Depression and Anxiety," presented at the 43rd Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the American Association for Dental Research by Dr. R. Constance Wiener of West Virginia University, researchers assessed data from a complex telephone survey involving 451,075 respondents. Of those, 76,292 were eligible participants. Eligibility required being 19 years or older and the existence of complete data on depression, anxiety and tooth loss.

Among the eligible participants, 13.4 percent reported anxiety; 16.7 percent reported depression; and 5.7 percent reported total tooth loss. The sample was distributed evenly between males and females and included 68.7 percent non-Hispanic whites, 12.7 percent non-Hispanic blacks, 12.7 percent Hispanics and 6.8 percent other.

Through the methodology of Chi-square analysis by tooth loss, researchers determined that depression, anxiety and a combined category of depression or anxiety were significantly different in tooth loss participants when compared with participants without tooth loss. Though a link appears to be evident between depression, anxiety and tooth loss, Dr. Wiener said a direct cause and effect relationship hasn't been identified.

"Is it bidirectional? We're not really sure," Dr. Wiener said. "Does depression cause a person not to take care of their teeth and then eventually lose their teeth? Or do you lose your teeth and, as a result of that, become depressed? Because it's cross-sectional, we really can't say which way that it's happening. But that's where even more research is needed to see how much of an effect depression really does have on the people that have lost teeth."

The value of the research is to stoke awareness, Dr. Wiener said. "We wanted to prepare dentists to be on guard," she said. "Depression is a significant factor in dental care no matter which way it goes. So it's really important that we get that oral hygiene message out there and the encouragement to brush and floss."

The American Dental Association has a number of resources on its consumer website to help people care for their teeth and avoid tooth loss. To access the information, visit and click the A-Z Topics tab on the left from the homepage. Be sure to visit the section Missing Teeth, which addresses options for replacing lost teeth.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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