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SENDAI, Japan: Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have found that maternal mental health may play a significant role in instilling early toothbrushing habits in children and thereby influence their oral health and the development of early childhood caries (ECC).
Led by Dr Shinobu Tsuchiya of the Department of Orthodontics and Speech Therapy for Craniofacial Anomalies at Tohoku University Hospital in Sendai, the study aimed to investigate whether the mental health of mothers influenced the early cultivation of toothbrushing habits. The study consisted of a secondary analysis of data from a national study of 84,533 mother–infant pairs. The Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale was used to evaluate maternal postpartum depression at intervals of one and six months, and Poisson regression models were used to examine the association between postpartum depression and toothbrushing frequency in the 2-year-old children.
It was found that postpartum depression in mothers was associated with less frequent toothbrushing and that, conversely, children whose mothers did not suffer from postnatal depression were more likely to brush their teeth twice daily. The association of maternal postpartum depression with a lower frequency of toothbrushing in children had consistently higher relative risks, but the association was weakened when adjusting for whether children could brush their own teeth or do so under the supervision of parents.
A Tohoku University press release pointed out that Japan has a worryingly high prevalence of ECC in children aged 3 years old, and lead researcher Tsuchiya commented: “A mother’s psychological well-being provides valuable screening information for identifying children at a high risk of ECC.”
The researchers did not assess postnatal depression in fathers and its influence on childhood oral health habits.
The study, titled “Influence of maternal postpartum depression on children’s toothbrushing frequency”, was published online on 11 June 2021 in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, ahead of inclusion in an issue.