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Evidence links stress and periodontal disease

Managing your stress may also help you protect your oral health, say Brazilian researchers.

Scientists reviewed more than two-dozen studies conducted between 1990 and 2006 to determine whether negative life events and psychological factors might contribute to an increased susceptibility to periodontal disease.

They found that 57 percent of studies reviewed found a link between stress, distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness and periodontal disease. Increased levels of cortisol—a hormone produced by the body at higher levels during times of stress—might be a contributing factor in lowering the body's immunity, making it more susceptible to periodontal disease, researchers theorize.

They also note that stressed-out individuals are more likely to engage in habits that promote periodontal disease—like smoking, not eating a balanced diet, not caring for their teeth and gums or postponing their dental visits.

Study authors recommend that individuals try to reduce their level of stress to protect their oral health.

The American Dental Association Web site notes that there are a variety of factors that increase your risk for periodontal disease, including:

  • Tobacco smoking or chewing;
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes;
  • Some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives;
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly;
  • Crooked teeth;
  • Fillings that have become defective;
  • Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives.

Sometimes, patients may have periodontal disease without any warning signs, so it's important to have regular dental checkups, to brush and floss regularly and to eat a healthy diet.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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