Family Conflict May Equal Poor Oral Health

Families with a lot of verbal and physical conflict have more cavities and poorer oral health, according to a new study. Researchers studied 135 families with elementary-age children and gave them questionnaires about interparental and parent-to-child physical and emotional aggression and harsh discipline. Dental hygienists determined the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth in each of the family members.

The more conflict the men and women had with their respective partner, the more cavities they had, according to the study, which was published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association. Children whose mothers showed emotional aggression toward their partner also had more cavities.

“Family oral health may suffer because noxious behaviors create an emotional environment that undermines organized routines such as regular tooth brushing, parents’ socialization of children’s tooth brushing and healthy eating,” the researchers wrote. “For example, after an intense conflict, a parent may be more preoccupied with his or own emotional state than with enforcing a child’s tooth brushing or preparing a healthy meal. The stress of family hostility also may promote ‘stress eating,’ which may include sugars and other cariogenic foods.”

To prevent tooth loss and maintain healthy teeth, the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of the brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily.

The ADA also recommends replacing your toothbrush every three or four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Also, make sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.

Flossing is also an essential part of any oral health care routine. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to achieve optimal oral health.

By flossing daily, you help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing also helps prevent gum disease and cavities.

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