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Don’t Let the Financial Crisis Ruin Your Smile, Dentists Warn


NGS Photo by James L. Stanfield

Worried about losing your job or your investments in the current financial crisis? Don’t let the stress impact your oral health, which may contribute, in turn, to even more serious health complications.

“Stress can make an individual more susceptible to harmful habits that negatively impact oral health,” says David Cochran, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) 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. 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,” he said in a statement released by the AAP.

A study published in the February 2009 Journal of Periodontology confirmed that stress may interfere with oral hygiene, the statement explained. In the study, 56 percent of participants self-reported that stress led them to neglect regular brushing and flossing.

“In addition, the hormone cortisol may also play a role in the connection between stress and gum disease. Chronic stress is associated with higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol; previous research has found that increased amounts of cortisol in the bloodstream can lead to a more destructive form of periodontal disease,” the statement added.

“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,” Cochran said.

“Doing so can help maintain a healthy mouth, and potentially help ward off other negative health concerns … In these stressful times I encourage my patients to pay even more attention to their teeth and gums. And in turn, since preventing gum disease may help reduce overall health care expenses, maintaining a healthy mouth may actually be a stress reliever in itself.”