Objective. Several studies indicate that stress adversely affects various health behaviours. Oral hygiene behaviour, however, has been rarely studied in this context. The present study thus aims to assess the effects of stress on oral hygiene behaviour and clinical outcome.
Design. In a prospective matched controlled design 12 pairs of medical students, each consisting of 1 student participating in a major academic exam and 1 student not participating in any exams (control) were studied.
Methods. A professional tooth cleaning was performed 4 weeks prior to exams to obtain plaque levels of 0 at all sites. Immediately prior to professional tooth cleaning and 4 weeks after exams plaque levels (as indicator of oral hygiene behaviour) and bleeding on probing (an indicator of gingivitis) were assessed.
Results. No group differences were observed at the beginning of the exam period; after exams significant higher rates of plaque (p =.0005, d =1.74) and gingivitis (p =.016, d =1.01) were observed in exam students as compared with controls.
Conclusions. The study illustrates the clinical significance of stress effects on health behaviour. Stress should be included as a factor in models of patient compliance and health behaviour.