How Stress Can Damage Your Dental Health
These days many people lead stressful lives, trying to juggle demanding careers with family life. This can take a toll on your general health and on your dental health. A certain amount of stress can have a positive effect, causing people to feel more alert and full of energy. It can become a negative feeling when you do not have any relaxation or release from everyday challenges and difficulties.
If you do experience excessive stress then it is worth being aware of the following oral health problems that could potentially develop. You should know what to do if you are affected.
Poor Oral Hygiene
If you are stressed, short of time and always feel tired then it’s tempting to cut back on your oral hygiene routine. When this happens, you may end up not brushing as thoroughly as you should or for long enough and all efforts at flossing could go out the window. What’s worse is that if you’re feeling particularly tired then you may go to bed without brushing your teeth.
Even though it can be tempting to skip this routine, please don’t. It will only take a few minutes each day and could save you a lot of stress, heartache, and expense in the future. To put it in perspective, you only need to spend two minutes brushing your teeth morning and night. Even the busiest person should be able to set aside at least a couple of minutes for this essential task.
Flossing thoroughly will only take a few minutes more and ideally should be done as the last thing you do at night so your mouth is super clean when you go to sleep.
Poor Diet and Nutrition
When you are constantly on the go it can be difficult to prepare and eat nutritious and nourishing foods. A poor diet may mean you are lacking in essential vitamins and minerals needed to keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy. Reaching for snack foods and junk food can be especially bad for your teeth. This is because many of them tend to be carbohydrate-rich and are high in sugars, increasing your risk of gum disease and tooth decay. It could also lead to tooth loss, as well as bone loss. Over a period, you may require dental implants or a gum graft.
Although it can be difficult to eat healthily when you’re stressed there are plenty of foods available that are quick to prepare and which are nutritious. Try to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and good snacks include cheese, hummus and natural yogurt, especially plain Greek yogurt. This will provide you with plenty of protein while being low in sugars.
Also, taking the time to enjoy a properly prepared and nutritious meal with friends and family can be a great way to de-stress and to relax.
Teeth Grinding and Clenching
Teeth grinding and clenching is a medical condition called bruxism and is frequently associated with stress. What makes it so serious is that bruxism tends to be a nocturnal habit and many people who have this condition may be unaware they clench or grind in their sleep. One thing that can give it away is if a sleeping partner complains about the noise because teeth grinding can sound quite unpleasant.
The effects of tooth grinding and clenching on your teeth, gums, and jaws can be extremely serious. Continually clenching and grinding wears teeth down and can cause chips and fractures to develop. The pressure on your gums may lead to gum recession and teeth may even become loose. Clenching your teeth also creates enormous pressure on your jaw joints.
They are called temporomandibular joints and this can cause a problem called temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD for short. TMD can result in the jaw joints becoming sore and inflamed and when you open and close your mouth then your jaws may make a popping or clicking sound. The pain from your jaw joints can radiate into your neck and shoulders and can even cause chronic headaches.
If you find yourself frequently waking up with headaches that you simply cannot shift then it might be worth making an appointment to see your dentist. Your dentist can soon diagnose bruxism and can provide the most suitable treatment for this problem. Quite often bruxism can be treated by wearing a custom-made night splint. Made from a hard, thermoplastic material, a night splint usually fits over your teeth.
This is so that when you try to clench or grind your teeth, your lower teeth just glide harmlessly against the guard. They can also talk to you about ways to maybe try to reduce your stress levels which can help to correct this problem. If bruxism has caused any damage to your teeth, your dentist can discuss the most suitable restorative options.
Being under stress can cause your saliva to dry up and some medications can also have this effect. The problem with this is that saliva helps to protect your teeth, washing away old skin cells, excess bacteria and helping to maintain a neutral pH in your mouth. Saliva helps you to chew food properly making it easier to digest. If you do have a dry mouth then your dentist may be able to prescribe artificial saliva or you can buy this over-the-counter.
Make sure you drink plenty of water so that you’re always well hydrated and some people find it useful to choose sugar-free gum or to suck on sugar-free candies.
Skipping Dental Appointments
When you’re busy and stressed it can be difficult to make the time to see the dentist. Most people will only spend an hour or so every six months and it’s well worth trying to make the time to do this. Regular dental appointments are vital for good dental health. This is because they enable your dentist to keep a close eye on the condition of your teeth, gums and oral tissues.
If you do need any treatment then it’s likely to be quicker and less invasive, and more cost-effective. Having regular dental appointments will also help to protect your general health. This is because poor oral health has been linked to many general health problems in numerous clinical studies. Attending regular dental visits will give you peace of mind that your mouth is properly cared for while protecting your general health.
That’s at least one less thing to feel stressed about.