Deep Pockets: You May Have More Than You Think This Holiday Season

Dec. 18, 2002
Stress, inadequate coping skills may increase risk of periodontal disease.

Holiday stressors such as gift giving, job losses and a flailing economy could make your pockets deeper than you thought this holiday season. Periodontal pockets that is, otherwise known as the spaces between your teeth and gums caused by an oral bacterial infection.

Previous research reported in the American Academy of Periodontology's Journal of Periodontology stated that an ever-present financial stress and lack of adequate coping skills could lead to altered habits, such as reducing oral hygiene, teeth grinding, salivary changes and the weakening of the body's ability to fight infection.

"The good news is that many of these risk factors for periodontal diseases can be controlled with minimal personal time and financial resources," explained Michael Rethman, D.D.S., and president-elect of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "The best way to prevent periodontal diseases is through effective daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental visits that include a periodontal exam and thorough cleaning."

He also added, "More importantly it's paramount to get to the root of our holiday stress in order to minimize the harm it could cause to our bodies."

According to a major health Web site, spending money is the number-one source of holiday stress for people.

Rethman advises consumers not to fall into the trap of spending too much money during the holiday season. "Show your family and friends you care about them by spending time with them instead of buying an overly expensive gift," said Rethman. "You may also want to explain your budget to your children, so they understand too."

Rethman recommends the following tips to alleviate their stress during the holiday season:
* Take one thing at a time and be realistic about your expectations
* Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet
* Don't disrupt your sleep patterns
* Meditate
* Allow enough time for yourself each day to perform daily tasks such as brushing and flossing

In addition to brushing and flossing at least twice daily, and regular dental visits, Rethman recommends replacing toothbrushes every few months or when the bristles begin to look frayed and to floss daily to break up the bacterial colonies between teeth that can cause periodontal diseases. "Toothbrushes make excellent stocking stuffers," said Rethman.

Periodontal diseases, also known as gum diseases, are chronic infections that affect the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque causes the gums to become inflamed. Left untreated with time, teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.

For a free brochure titled How to Brush and Floss, use the AAP's online request form or toll-free number 800-FLOSS-EM. You may also visit the AAP web site at for a referral to a periodontist in your area.