Stress less for a healthier mouth

January 7, 2013

You know stress can take a big toll on your overall well being. But did you know it can do a number on your oral health as well?

Clenching and grinding. One of the biggest oral symptoms of stress is bruxism – grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw at night and during the day. It can cause severe damage to teeth (some people clench so hard that their teeth can crack), cause sensitivity, pain and tenderness, and can lead to problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can lead to stiffness and headaches. If you think you’re grinding your teeth at night, talk to your dentist about it. He or she may recommend a night guard to protect your teeth.

Neglecting your teeth. When you’re busy and tired, proper brushing and flossing can take a back seat. Skipping daily hygiene can lead to gum disease and an increase risk of getting cavities. Keep brushing twice a day, flossing every day – and visiting your dentist.

Gum disease and infections. Long-term stress releases cortisol. When you’re experiencing short bursts of stress, it’s a hormone that is designed to help you cope. But when you’re dealing with chronic stress, it works against you, impairing cognitive performance, creating blood sugar imbalances, impacting bone density and muscle tissue, increasing abdominal fat, and lowering your immunity and your ability to heal. When stress has affected your immune system your body can’t fight off bacteria as easily, which can result in infections of the teeth and gums. In fact, studies have linked gum disease directly to stress, so the better you manage your stress, the healthier your gums will be.

Cankers and cold sores. If you get these painful lesions in and around your mouth, you know you’re more prone to them when your body is stressed. When stress lowers your immunity, your body simply can’t fight off viruses and infections.

Eating more sweets. When we’re stressed, we tend to crave sugary foods and drinks to give us the boost we’re craving. But increasing your sugar intake doesn’t do your teeth (or your body) any favours. Make an effort to exercise and eat healthy, and your sweet cravings won’t be as severe.

Picking up bad habits. Stress can also cause you to start smoking or drinking – both habits can damage your teeth and your overall health.

The solution? Well, unless you’re independently wealthy and can move to a tropical island and hang out on the beach all day, stress is an inevitable part of life. But there are lots of ways to keep it from hijacking your health. One of the best (and cheapest) ways to de-stress? Just stop and breathe. Next time you’re sitting in traffic, relax your shoulders, and take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body unclench. It works. You could also try yoga, taking walks, music, dancing, heading to the gym – whatever works for you.

And don’t forget to visit your dentist – regular checkups can help detect stress-related disorders that not only affect your mouth, but your entire body.

If you have questions about how stress is affecting your oral health, please call us anytime at 905 637-5463 (KIND) or at info@desiredsmiles.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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