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Reducing stress can positively affect oral health

Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association concluded that over 80 percent of Americans rank money and the economy as significant causes of stress.

Chronic stress contributes to a number of health problems, including a weakened immune system and increased blood pressure, but it also takes its toll on periodontal health. If left untreated, periodontal disease may result in even more serious overall health complications.

Stress tends to make people more susceptible to harmful habits that negatively impact oral health, said Dr. David Cochran, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and chair of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"Stress may lead an individual to abuse tobacco or alcohol, and to possibly even neglect his or her oral hygiene," said Dr. Cochran. "These lifestyle choices are known risk factors for the development of periodontal disease, which has been connected to several other chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes."

In the February issue of the Journal of Periodontology, a study confirmed that stress interferes with oral hygiene. More than half of participants (56 percent) reported that stress led them to neglect regular brushing and flossing. Chronic stress is also associated with higher and more prolonged levels of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to a more destructive form of periodontal disease.

"During periods of high stress such as what we are currently experiencing in this economic climate, individuals should seek healthy sources of relief such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting adequate sleep," said Dr. Cochran. "Doing so can help maintain a healthy mouth, and potentially help ward off other negative health concerns."

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

8/17/2009

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