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‘Know thy patient’: is there a relationship between personality and oral health?


Personality Word Cloud Concept In Red CapsThis summary is based on the article published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences: Personality and oral health (October 2011)

Thomson WM, Caspi A, Poulton R, Moffitt TE, Broadbent JM.






  • Recent decades have seen a burgeoning in the use of self-report measures in oral epidemiological and health services research 1.
  • This has been sparked by not only the development of such measures, but also by an increasing awareness of their utility in such research and the recognition that health is a subjective state 2.
  • Research into the association between personality and health has shown at least three processes to be involved 3. Particular personality traits may predispose to poor oral health; personality traits may predispose to poor oral health because they are associated with health-damaging behaviours; personality characteristics may shape the way in which individuals react to (interpret) symptoms and thus construct their illness state.

Purpose of the Study

The aim of this study is to characterize the nature of the association between personality characteristics, clinical disease status, and self-reported oral health in a longstanding cohort study.

Specifically, to determine:

  1. Whether personality was associated with self-reported oral health,
  2. Whether personality was associated with clinical disease status, and
  3. Whether personality was associated with self-reported oral health, even after controlling for clinical disease status.

Key Findings

  • The study found a consistent association between negative emotionality and poorer self-reported oral health, whether measured using a sophisticated scale or a single-item global measure. The association persisted after controlling for gender, current clinical oral status, and other personality characteristics.
  • There was also a strong association between negative emotionality and caries-associated tooth loss, as well as with higher numbers of untreated, decayed surfaces.
  • Therefore, personality shapes not only self-reported oral health, but also clinical disease status, at least with respect to dental caries and its sequelae.


  1. Shearer D, Macleod R, Thomson W. Oral-health-related quality of life: an overview for the general dental practitioner. N Z Dent J 2007; 103: 82–87.
  2. Locker D. Oral health indicators and determinants for population oral health surveys. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2001.
  3. Caspi A, Roberts B, Shiner R. Personality development: stability and change. Annu Rev Psychol 2005; 56: 453–484.


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