Stress is something we always have to deal with, but it seems to be worse at certain times of the year. For some, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is too much to take, but for many of us, it’s the month of April that is stress central. The pressures of tax season, final exams, and finding a job can really put an individual through an emotional wringer this time of year. But what many people don’t consider is how that stress impacts their oral health. All that time spent worrying and stressing out can manifest in several painful and even potentially serious oral health conditions. Here are some of the dental problems to watch out for when you’re feeling under pressure.
Grinding teeth and clenching jaws, also known as bruxism, are common signs of stress and anxiety. It affects many individuals while they are sleeping, causing them to wake up with headaches, earaches, facial pain, and soreness in the jaw or neck. Even though many people are unaware they even have the condition, leaving it unaddressed can result in chronic discomfort. The constant pressure and friction wear down the enamel, leaving teeth sensitive and vulnerable to decay. Bruxism is especially problematic for individuals with cosmetic dental treatments like crowns and veneers, which can be damaged from the grinding and clenching.
Recent studies have indicated a link between emotional stress and the development and severity of gum disease. Stress negatively impacts the immune system, leaving an individual in a weakened condition and physically unable to fight infections that cause tooth decay, mouth sores, and bleeding gums. The progression of gum disease also puts at risk a patient’s heart health and general wellbeing. If you notice any of the signs of gum disease – inflammation, soreness, redness, tenderness of the gums, persistent bad breath, and bleeding when brushing or flossing – contact your dentist immediately.
Prolonged periods of stress and nervousness may limit or prohibit a body’s ability to create saliva. This results not only in a dry feeling in the mouth, but also dryness and possible soreness in the throat, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, cracked lips, hoarseness, bad breath, mouth sores, and coughing. The real concern with dry mouth is its effect on the teeth, however. Saliva is basically a miracle substance that cleans teeth, washes away food and bacteria, neutralizes acid in the mouth, reduces bad breath, and protects against cavities, ulcers, and other mouth sores, so when saliva production is inadequate, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease increases. Sticking to oral hygiene habits is always important, but it takes on added significance during periods of stress and tension when the immune system may be weakened and vulnerable. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily helps keep teeth and gums healthy and offers vital protection against tooth decay and gum disease. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to have at least two annual visits to Ellicott Mills Dental. There’s no replacement for having a professional teeth and gum cleaning, and your dentist also can diagnose other problems that may be taking root. We also offer treatment for patients dealing with bruxism and other bite disorders. We can set you up with a custom mouthguard to fit comfortably over your teeth and provide important protection against grinding and clenching. Call our office today to see what we can do for you!