Experimental occlusal disharmony – A promoting factor for anxiety in rats under chronic psychological stress

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Background and purpose:

Clinically, patients under chronic psychological stress (PS) appear to be more susceptible to occlusal disharmony (OD) compared with those without PS. OD was proved to introduce anxiety-like stress. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to investigate whether OD would affect psychological stress-induced anxiety and its underlying mechanisms.


Chronic PS was induced by a communication box, and OD was produced by bonding a 0.3 mm-thick crown on the right maxillary first molar of male Sprague-Dawley rats. Sixty-seven rats were randomly divided into 8 groups: (A) chronic PS plus OD group (n = 6); (B) chronic PS plus sham OD group (n = 6); (C) chronic PS only group (n = 6); (D) OD group (n = 6); (E) sham OD group (n = 6); (F) control group (n = 6); (G) naive group (n = 6); (H) foot-shock group (n = 25). Open-field test (OFT) and elevated plus maze test (EPM) were conducted on the 7th, 21th, 35th day to measure the anxiety level of each group except naive and foot-shock group. In addition, corticosterone (CORT) level in serum, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and 5-HT2A receptor (5-HT2AR) expressions in prefrontal cortex (PFC), hippocampal CA1 and dentate gyrus (DG) areas were measured on the 35th day to elucidate the mechanism(s) by which the exacerbation occurred.


The significant differences in OFT and EPM tests on day 21 or day 35 between groups (p < 0.01) indicated the successful establishment of animal model of PS or OD. And there was a significant increase in CORT concentration in serum (p < 0.01), 5-HT expressions in PFC, hippocampal DG areas and 5-HT2AR expressions in PFC, hippocampal CA1 areas (p < 0.05) in group A, B, C, D compared with group F. Similar results were also found in group A, B, C, D when compared with group G (p < 0.05) except 5-HT expression in DG area in group C and D (p > 0.05), together with a gradual decrease in values of all the parameters mentioned above from group A to group G.


The significant changes in exploratory behaviors, serum CORT concentration, 5-HT and 5-HT2AR expressions induced by OD in rats with or without chronic PS, and more obvious alterations in rats with chronic PS, may indicate that OD may be a promoting factor for anxiety through both peripheral and central pathways via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and 5-HT system.

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