Stress and Control

Stress and Control

Stress and control are risk factors for periodontal disease and cardiovascular diseases. Stress is the body’s reaction to external forces or events that cause physical, emotional or mental tension. When an individual feels stressed, adrenaline and stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) are released to prepare the body for the “fight-or-flight” response.

While stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress can lead to health problems and lifestyle behavioural changes (e.g., taking up or increasing smoking, increasing alcohol intake, changing dietary habits, becoming physically inactive, neglecting oral and personal hygiene) which further increase health risks.

How individuals react to stress depends to a large extent on their personality type. Studies have shown, however, that even people with the most easy-going and adaptable  personalities can suffer from stress if they lack a sense of control over aspects of their daily lives.

Chronic stress (e.g., low social support, low socioeconomic status, work stress, marital stress, caregiver strain) is a known  risk factor for cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease.

It has been theorised that chronic stress speeds up the process of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries and that the stress hormone cortisol plays a role in increased periodontal destruction. Cortisol also acts to suppress the immune system, allowing bacteria to flourish in the mouth.

Exercise and stress management techniques provide individuals with tools to cope with the anxieties in their lives. The most effective way to deal with stress is by correcting or modifying its underlying causes (e.g., low socio-economic status), however, this may be beyond the control of the individual.