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CHICAGO – July 19, 1999 – 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 July 1999 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.

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.

Genco and his colleagues are following more than 1,400 people between the ages of 25 and 74 in the ongoing study, which is one of the first to examine the relationship of periodontal disease to stress, distress and coping in a large population.

Psychological tests were given to identify and weigh the causes of stress (children, spouse, financial strain, single life and work stress) in participants' daily lives and to measure the ability to cope with stress. To measure financial strain, study participants answered nine questions, including:

At the present time, are you able to afford a home that is large enough?
Do you have difficulty in meeting monthly payments of your family bills?
How often is it that you don't have enough money to afford the kind of food, clothing, medical care, or leisure activities you and your family need or want?

Further studies are needed to help establish the time course of stress in respect to the onset and progression of periodontal disease and the mechanisms that explain the association. Intervention studies also are needed to determine the extent to which controlling stress will influence periodontal disease and its treatment. PerioArtist

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