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Holiday Stress And Oral Health

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Holiday Stress And Oral Health

Holiday Stress And Oral Health

December 11, 2006
By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) suggests a parallel between our depleted pocketbooks during the holidays and periodontal pockets, “otherwise known as the spaces between your teeth and gums caused by oral bacterial infection.” In a study published in the AAP’s Journal of Periodontology, researchers reported that “ever-present financial stress and a lack of adequate coping skills could lead to altered habits, such as a reduction in oral hygiene efforts, teeth grinding, salivary changes, and weakening of the body’s ability to fight infection.”
Take Action
Four Simple Tips for Staying on Track with Your Teeth During the Holidays
  • Take the time you need to brush your teeth.
  • Visit the dentist twice each year.
  • Remember that any snack, even carrots, stimulates bacterial growth in the mouth.
  • Be especially vigilant with oral care when consuming candies, cookies, and other sugary holiday foods.


  • “That does it,” said 32-year-old Marvin Mason of Palo Alto, California. “I’m going to sit down with my wife so we can figure out a budget this year. It’s all fun – all the holiday spending – until the bills come due in January. Plus, now that I see we could have dental bills along with the usual ones, I’d really like to get a better handle on the stress this year. Living here in the Bay Area there’s enough stress already without piling more on. Also, I think the holidays can be enjoyable without all the frenzy.”

    “I agree,” said Mason’s wife Suzanne. “Also, I have noticed that when we go to visit family, I definitely back off on my tooth brushing. When I’m in my usual routine, I brush after every meal and floss at night. But when we go to Marvin’s parents’ home for Christmas, I generally forget about brushing after lunch because we’re usually off and running for something or other.

    “I agree with my husband, though, it’s so much fun at the time – all the excitement and spending during the holidays – it’s easy to get caught up. And it’s only later on during those cold January days when all the exhaustion and bills catch up with you. Frankly, I’d rather be planning a trip to Hawaii in January than one to the dentist.”

    “The good news is that many of these risk factors for periodontal disease can be controlled with minimal personal time and financial resources,” said Michael Rethman, DDS and former president of the AAP. He would also agree with the Masons’ plan to sit down and make a budget before the season gets underway.

    “More importantly,” said Rethman, “it’s paramount to get to the root of our holiday stress in order to minimize the harm it could cause to our bodies.” In addition to holiday stress that predisposes people to gum disease, the amount of sugar available for consumption seems to escalate as though it were snow falling from the sky. Thus, precisely at a time when we are more vulnerable to tooth and gum problems, we are presented with ever-present goodies in our offices, friend’s homes, and our own kitchens. Here again, though, if we are vigilant, there’s no need to fret.

    “You can still eat sugar,” said Nadar Rassouli, DDS, MS, a Portland, Oregon prosthodontist. “Just be sure to brush as soon as you can afterward – or at the very least rinse your mouth with water until you can get to your toothbrush.”

    Rethman agrees, and adds that visits to the dental hygienist are important. “The best way to prevent periodontal disease is through effective daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental visits that include a periodontal exam and thorough cleaning.”

    And for those who celebrate Christmas, Rethman thinks the holiday is a great time to keep oral health front and center. “Toothbrushes make excellent stocking stuffers,” he said.

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