Researchers at Tufts University are investigating the relationship between stress and periodontal disease, according to a review published in the Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents last fall. Basically dental professionals concur that when people don’t practice proper oral hygiene, bacteria build up in the oral cavity and take over. The body produces immune cells to protect against bacteria, but when the body is under stress, this delicate balance is thrown off. Inflammation tends to increase due to stress, allowing bacteria to thrive and cause gingivitis, a precursor to periodontal disease.
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When the body is under stress, it produces more of the hormone cortisol, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. When cortisol is produced peripherally in the gums, it stimulates mast cells to produce more proteins, simultaneously increasing inflammation and the progression of periodontal disease.