As we head into the one-year mark of this pandemic, there are still several unknowns. But one thing has remained constant the whole time — stress levels are high, and rightfully so. Stress isn’t the best thing for health, especially at times like these. Prolonged periods of high stress can put us at increased risk for heart disease, actually make our immune systems less effective, and cause some unwanted gut problems. That’s not all. Dentists have also noticed an increase in oral health problems the past year, including this dentist featured in the New York Times. In today’s blog, your dentist in Hagerstown explores some ways how stress can affect your oral health.
Chipped or Broken Teeth
You know how your body reacts kind of automatically when you’re stressed out? Maybe you start to sweat even though you’re not hot. Or perhaps your heart starts beating so fast it’s all you can hear. These and other subconscious reactions happen, and they’re not always so obvious. In fact, sometimes we don’t even notice that our body reacted at all. One great example of this is when we grind or clench our teeth. Many times we’re not even aware that we’re doing it, but it can certainly cause trouble. The constant pressure of teeth on teeth during clenching or grinding can cause tooth damage such as chips, cracks, or breaks and will require treatment from your dentist in Hagerstown.
Unfortunately, the problems with clenching and grinding don’t end with damaged teeth. These repeated motions over and over again can start to cause jaw pain as the muscles in the jaw joint are overworked. If this happens over a long period of time, this can develop into TMJ disorder, and the pain can become severe and lead to other problems such as headaches, neck pain, and difficulty chewing.
Now, besides the problems associated with clenching and grinding, there’s also the risk of gum disease. Gum disease is an infection in the gum tissue and is usually caused by poor dental hygiene or tobacco use. However, stress may also increase the risk of developing gum disease. Your dentist in Hagerstown can treat gum disease if it’s caught early, but if the disease becomes more severe it also becomes irreversible. Untreated advanced gum disease can cause tooth loss and increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and some cancers.
It’s important to note that scientists have yet to determine one absolute cause of canker sores. But research conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry suggests a possible correlation between high levels of stress and the development of canker sores. Even though these painful bumps may be a little bit painful and a lot bit annoying, they’re not contagious or dangerous and should go away on their own.
Lower Your Stress, Lower Your Risk
We know it’s hard to lower your stress levels, especially nowadays, but we can’t stress enough just how important it is to try different ways to live as stress-free of a life as possible to lower your risk of health problems. Some ways to reduce stress include:
- Getting Enough Sleep. We need to sleep in order to recover and keep our bodies functioning properly. Aim for 8 hours a day and follow a regular routine of waking up at the same time every day.
- Exercising Every Day. Whatever your exercise of choice is, try to do it every day. Hop on a bike. Go for a walk. Do some high-intensity interval training. Just get sweating. Exercise has been proven to release endorphins which can decrease stress and keep us healthy.
- Breathing It Out. Meditation has been used for centuries as a stress-reduction tactic. Find a quiet space, focus on your breath, and clear your mind to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and help you relax.
Everyone is different, but try to find a stress-reduction technique that works for you and practice it every day. Your body, mind, and overall health will thank you for it.