Financial stress doubles periodontal disease risk

CHICAGO -- High levels of financial stress and poor coping abilities increase twofold the likelihood of developing periodontal (gum) disease, according to a study released today in the current issue of the Journal of Periodontology. After accounting for other risk factors -- such as age, gender, smoking, poor dental care and diabetes -- those who reported high levels of financial strain and poor coping behaviors had higher levels of attachment loss and alveolar bone loss (signs of periodontal disease) than those with low levels of financial strain.

"Financial strain is a long-term, constant pressure," said Dr. Robert Genco, chair of the Oral Biology Department at The State University of New York at Buffalo, who carried out the studies with the periodontal research group at Buffalo and behavioral scientist, Dr. Lisa Tedesco, of the University of Michigan. "Our studies indicate that this ever-present stress and a lack of adequate coping skills could lead to altered habits, such as reduced oral hygiene or teeth grinding, as well as salivary changes and a weakening of the body's ability to fight infection."

However, people who dealt with their financial strain in an active and practical way (problem-focused) rather than with avoidance techniques (emotion-focused) had no more risk of severe periodontal disease than those without money problems.

"The good news is that many of the risk factors for periodontal disease, such as poor oral hygiene and infrequent professional care, can be controlled with minimal personal time and financial resources," said Dr. Robert Schoor, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "And because eliminating periodontal disease also eliminates a risk factor for heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes complications, it is especially important for people to do what they can to protect their oral health."

Genco and his colleagues are following more than 1,400 people between the ages of 25 and 74 in

Contact: Amanda Widtfeldt, Communications Manager
American Academy of Periodontology

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