Submitted by Delta Dental of Washington.
With the ongoing stress of COVID-19 and world events, our bodies are responding physically in ways that put our health at risk – including our oral health. From jaw pain to chipped teeth, stress can manifest in our mouths in painful ways.
“Our first line of defense against stress-related oral health problems is mindfulness around what causes stress and identifying when you’re actively grinding,” said Dr. Jeff Reynolds, Dental Care & Dental Director for Community Health Care and a Delta Dental of Washington member dentist. “It’s also important to keep an eye out for any potential changes to your oral health and talk with your dentist to determine the best course of treatment.”
Below are some of the effects which stress can have on your mouth, teeth, and gums, and how to keep them healthy while you work on lowering your stress levels.
- Bruxism (Tooth Grinding) – Stress and anxiety are two of the most common reasons people grind their teeth during the day and while asleep – it’s also one of the most common ways to ruin your teeth. Symptoms include jaw pain and tenderness, stiff neck, temporal headaches, flattened, chipped or cracked teeth, gum and enamel erosions and increased tooth sensitivity. Even if you can hide a chipped or flattened tooth behind your mask, it’s important to consult a dentist as soon as possible. If left untreated, teeth grinding can lead to extreme sensitivity and the inability to chew properly. If you are a chronic teeth grinder, your dentist might recommend a night guard to help prevent further damage.
- Gum Disease – Stress can make it harder for your body to defend itself against infections, including infections of your gums. Gum disease can result in loose teeth, bleeding gums, tooth loss and bad breath. If you notice any changes to your gum tissue, book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to address any possible infections.
- Canker Sores – Canker sores are those pesky spots with a white or grayish base and red borders in your mouth that can be quite painful. Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes them, but they are often tied to problems with the immune system, minor trauma (like biting your cheek), or viral infections. If these show up in your mouth, avoid hot, spicy, and acidic foods to let them heal over which typically takes about a week. If they appear often and in large numbers, consult your dentist who might be able to prescribe ointments to ease pain and speed up healing.
When stress levels are at an all-time high it’s important to find ways to relax to ensure that you can stay as healthy as possible by getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, spending time outdoors, exercising, and eating healthy foods. “We all know the preventive steps we need to take to stay healthy.” said Dr. Reynolds. “One of the best ways we can keep our smiles and teeth healthy is to prevent problems before they start. Schedule regular appointments with your dentist, brush for two minutes two times a day, floss before bed and be mindful of the stressors in your life impacting your smile.”
Delta Dental of Washington offers additional information about what you need to know about dental care abroad at www.DDWA.com/blog.