Whether it’s about a sick family member, filing taxes, or a pressing deadline at work, you’ve probably experienced stress, which can cause your muscles to tense, your heart to race, and your head to pound as you struggle to cope. Today is National Stress Awareness Day, a holiday we can all benefit from as we remember to relax and take care of ourselves. The American Institute of Stress reports that 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago and stress is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and disease. Managing stress is key to your wellbeing in all areas, including your oral health. To help our patients experience their healthiest smiles and lifestyles, we’ve dedicated this week’s blog to discussing how stress can impact your oral health and what you can do if it does.
Don’t Turn to Damaging Foods
According to the American Psychological Association, 40 percent of American adults overeat or eat unhealthy foods due to stress. Snacking on starches and sugars can help comfort you during periods of anxiety, but this isn’t typically a healthy choice. In addition to increasing your risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, stress eating can harm your teeth and gums. Oral bacteria feed on the carbohydrates and sugars in these foods, in turn producing acids that erode your enamel and cause cavities. These bacteria can also grow under the gum line, causing periodontal infection. If you’re feeling anxious, try taking a walk, going to a yoga class, or talking to trusted confidantes rather than eating unhealthy foods. Of course, some tasty French fries or chocolate won’t hurt as long as you eat them in moderation, drink plenty of water, and brush your teeth afterward.
The Link Between Anxiety and Jaw Pain
If you’re stressed, you might unconsciously clench your teeth together or tighten your jaw muscles, often during sleep. This habit can injure, stretch, or misalign your temporomandibular joints, which run from your temples to your lower jaw. This creates a condition known as TMJ disorder, which often causes headache, toothache, popping or clicking sounds when you move your jaw, inability to open your mouth, and muscle pain. If you suffer from any of these uncomfortable symptoms, Dr. Flanagan can diagnose your condition and recommend many TMJ treatments, including:
Â· Mouth guards that keep your mouth in proper position during sleep
Â· Anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers
Â· Relaxing massage to the face and jaw
Â· Heat and ice for the jaw area
Â· Modifications your eating routines by taking smaller bites
Most patients are able to alleviate the discomfort of TMJ by implementing these treatments and reducing stress in their lives.
Are You Stressed About Going to the Dentist?
We understand that visiting our office can itself be a source of stress for many patients. Colgate reveals that between 9 and 15 percent of Americans struggle with dental anxiety, making it far from uncommon. This means that up to 40 million people in the United States are afraid to attend their dental appointments, but skipping them isn’t the answer. If you have a dental issue such as an incipient cavity or the beginnings of gum disease, putting off diagnosis and treatment can allow your condition to worsen, requiring even more complex treatment or even oral surgery later on. To make coming in for preventive care and necessary treatments smoother and easier, our practice offers sedation dentistry. We provide both oral conscious and nitrous oxide sedation, so you can simply take a pill or breathe in a special medication before your treatment to keep you calm and comfortable.
Enjoy a Calmer Smile
National Stress Awareness Day is a great time to improve your lifestyle, reduce your anxiety, and take better care of your body. Contact Cindy Flanagan, D.D.S. to learn more about how stress can affect your dental health or schedule a consultation.