Couples in love have good reason to smile—and those smiles are healthy too, according to Grace Branjerdporn, a PhD candidate in pediatrics at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia.
“We studied how the dynamics of our romantic relationships affect our oral health. 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,” said Branjerdporn.
“They were more likely to skip dental checkups for preventative reasons, be overly self-conscious about how their teeth looked, and say their oral health was poorer,” she said. “On the flip side, 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.”
Branjerdporn was part of a collaboration between the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Services and the UQ School of Dentistry. The cross-sectional study built on previous research concerning adult attachment theory and the negative health impacts of attachment insecurity in adult relationships. It involved 265 healthy adults recruited via convenience sampling.
“Those who try to emotionally distance themselves from their significant other may be reluctant to schedule regular preventative dental appointments as they have higher levels of self-reliance, distrust of others, and avoid seeking support,” said Branjerdporn. “An emerging body of medical literature reveals links between insecure attachment and decreased healthcare seeking.”
According to the university, this is the first study to assess associations between patterns of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, oral health habits, and self-rated oral health with a group of healthy people. The researchers say that the findings also could provide a way to proactively support people at risk of poor oral health by more readily identifying them.