[Cite as http://purl.org/au-research/grants/nhmrc/349514]
Dr Anne Sanders
Prof Mark Bartold
Brief description Periodontal (gum) disease is a significant cause of tooth loss among adults in Australia. Bacteria (germs) that stick to teeth in dental plaque are the primary cause of gum disease. However, the amount of damage caused to the gums depends heavily on the body's immune system which fights infection throughout the body. Like many other health conditions, gum disease occurs at a higher rate in people in a relatively low socioeconomic-position (SEP) compared to people from high SEP. Studies of other health conditions have shown that psychosocial stress (eg. job strain, financial stress) disproportionately affects people in low SEP groups. Stress, in turn, is known to alter the body's defense mechanisms, including the immune system, contributing to higher rates of conditions such as heart disease. Researchers have used the term allostatic load to describe this failure of the body's defense system under stress. Stress has also been suggested as a contributing factor in gum disease. This study will investigate whether this sequence of events producing allostatic load also plays a role in gum disease. We will study a random sample of 610 Australian adults from the full range of SEP backgrounds. We will ask them about their experience of daily stress, and measure their levels of gum disease and dental plaque. We will also collect samples of fluid from around their gums to measure quantities of two chemicals that indicate the activity of immune defense mechanisms in the gums. We will analyze these results to determine whether stress affects the body's responses to dental plaque, and whether that response accounts for differences in levels of gum disease between SEP groups. Results from this study will pinpoint the role of common bodily defense mechanisms in the development of gum disease. These results may help to identify sources of stress that, if controlled, could reduce rates of gum disease and other conditions affected by allostatic load.
Funding Amount $AUD 368,000.00
Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants
Standard Project Grant