A mother's depression during pregnancy is not a risk factor for temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) in her child, a 31-year follow-up study indicates.
Depression in either parent did however increase the child's risk for pain-related TMD symptoms in early adulthood, according to Kirsi Sipilä (University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio) and co-authors, who say that effective treatment of parental depression "could also have an important influence on the future health of their offspring."
Sipilä's team used data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 on 5541 children and their parents.
Writing in the European Journal of Pain, Sipilä et al report that 13.8% of mothers experienced depression during pregnancy and 2.8% of parents needed hospital treatment for depression when their children were aged 18 years or below.
Among the children, 15.3% reported facial pain, 12.0% had temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) at rest, 12.3% had TMJ pain on movement, 25.0% had clicking and crepitations in the TMJ, and 8.6% had difficulties in mouth opening.
The researchers found no association between maternal depression during pregnancy and TMD in offspring.
By contrast, depression in either parent was significantly associated with facial pain (odds ratio [OR]=1.60) and TMJ pain at rest (OR=1.86) in the offspring. These associations remained significant after controlling for multiple confounders, with adjusted ORs of 1.64 and 1.81, respectively.
Other factors that influenced TMDs in the offspring were gender, paternal occupation, and self-reported depression of the offspring in early adulthood.
"Our results do not seem to follow the hypothesis that this association mediates through the presence of the offspring's own depression or, at least, not entirely," remark Sipilä et al.
"Based on this evidence, psychosocial risk factors in childhood and adolescence can have far-reaching effects on health into adulthood. Our findings suggest a need to add parental depression to the array of factors influencing experiences of pain later on in a child's life."
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