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Spousal Caregiving Can Lead to Gum Disease

Stress associated with caring for an aging or ill spouse,especially one suffering fromm Alzheimer's disese, can lead to gum disease in the caregiver at twice the rate of their non-caregiver counterparts, researchers report in the Nov/Dec. 2005 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.


Researchers(Peter Vitalianoo , and others of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle) placed the likely blame for gum disease on stress because there was no other difference in oral hygiene between the two study groups.Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes swelling and bleeding. It can progress to more serious disease leading to bone destruction and tooth loss.

Vitaliano reports that "On a practical level, they speak to relationships between chrinic stress and oral health in the general population and suggest that these are independent of oral care."

The caregivers in the study took care of spouses who had Alzheimer's Disease. 17 % of those caregivers reported gum disease while only 8.5 % of nn-caregivers did so.Evidently, there was no significant difference in oral healthcare behaviors between the two groups. The caregiver spouses also scored higher on other measures(ex.- obesity,blood insulin levels, etc.)

Neil Schneiderman, Director of the Univesity of Miami Behavioral Reserach Center said " The study shows that the relationship between caregiver stress and oral health can be explained by factors such as depression" .

The authors note that the link between chronic stress and gingivitis was first observed in World War I when oral infections among soldiers fighting in the trenches was so high that their teeth became loose and the tips between their teeth eroded away. Since then, studies have continued to show a correlation between various forms of stress and oral disease.

According to the authors, this is the first study to specifically examine oral health in caregivers.

For more information go to; www.psychosomatic