The results from the study suggest that being a caregiver to relatives with dementia, hypercortisolemia (overproduction of cortisol) or stress were associated with elevated plaque levels and increased gingival bleeding in a study that examined adults aged 50 years and older.
"We found that short term psychological stress was a risk indicator to elevated plaque levels and long term physical stress was a risk indicator to gingivitis," said Fernando N. Hugo, DDS and Faculty of Dentistry of Piracicaba, Brazil. "These findings support the health impact of psychosocial risk factors from chronic stress, which may lead to malfunction of some biological functions."
The study indicates that the demanding task of caregiving, usually associated with increased stress, may also be a risk factor for poor oral hygiene. These findings point out that stress may contribute to a disinterest in performing oral hygiene.
"Flossing and brushing the teeth and gums had a protective effect against plaque and gingivitis," said Kenneth A. Krebs, DMD and AAP president. "That said, future research is needed to explore the relationship between stress and oral hygiene negligence."
In this study, 230 individuals were evaluated, and almost 52 percent were caregivers. Caregivers of patients with dementia were examined because they represent a well-known group suffering from the impacts of chronic stress on human health and immune functions. The results are among the first in literature to suggest that caregivers of relatives with dementia are at risk of having more plaque and gingivitis than non-caregivers.
The American Academy of Periodontology is an 8,000-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.
The American Academy of Periodontology
EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the JOP article "Chronic Stress, Depression and Cortisol Levels as Risk Indicators of Elevated Levels of Plaque and Gingivitis in Individuals Aged 50 and Over." is available to the media by contacting the AAP Public Affairs Department at 312/573-3243. The public and/or non-AAP members can view a study abstract online, and the full-text of the study may be accessed online for $20.00 at http://www.joponline.org/.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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