The past year or so has been… interesting, to say the least. With lockdowns, working from home, schooling from home, and everything in between, it’s only normal to feel more stressed than usual. But during these times of increased stress, it’s more important than ever to take care of your health. After all, stress can put us at increased risk for health problems such as heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, and a less effective immune system. But that’s not all. Stress can also put your oral health at risk and require a visit to your dentist in Cedar Rapids.
How Stress Relates to Oral Health
There was an article published in the New York Times that details one dentist’s experience with seeing an increase in patients with dental damage during the pandemic. Now, while a pandemic is certainly a good reason to stress, there are other everyday stressors that can also cause problems with your oral health, with or without a pandemic.
Teeth Clenching & Grinding – When we become stressed, we may notice an increased heart rate or feelings of anxiety. But what we may not notice, at least not right away, is how we clench our teeth together tightly or grind them back and forth against each other. But these two habits that often occur subconsciously can cause some serious problems in your mouth. Repeatedly clenching or grinding your teeth can cause teeth to chip, break, or crack, requiring restorative dentistry treatment from your dentist in Cedar Rapids. What’s more, that repetitive movement and pressure of clenching and grinding your teeth can put excessive stress on the jaw joint. Over time, this can cause TMD (temporomandibular disorder), a painful condition that causes jaw popping, jaw pain, or clicking of the jaw.
Gum Disease – High stress levels may also increase the risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease is a serious infection in the mouth that can lead to tooth loss and other problems throughout the body including heart disease, kidney disease, and even some cancers. Gum disease can be treated and reversed if caught early, but in its more advanced stages, it becomes irreversible. Gum disease is usually the result of poor oral hygiene, but stress can also put you at risk for this concerning problem. If you notice signs of gum disease including red swollen gums, bleeding when your brush or floss, or chronic bad breath, schedule an appointment with your dentist in Cedar Rapids.
Canker Sores – We’re all pretty familiar with canker sores — those painful lip sores that seem to pop up from nowhere. While there is no concrete cause behind these pesky pimple-like sores, research conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry suggests a possible correlation between stress and the development of canker sores. Even though these sores can be painful, they’re not contagious and should go away on their own.
Lower Stress, Protect Your Health
Whenever you’re feeling stressed out, it’s important to try some stress-reducing activities to ease your mind and protect your oral and overall health. Some things you can try include:
- Sleeping. Aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night to refresh your mind and body.
- Exercising. A quick sweat session can release feel-good hormones called endorphins and lower stress.
- Meditating. There’s a ton of value in simply taking a few quiet minutes to just breathe. Focusing on your breath can lower your heart rate and make you feel more relaxed.
Now more than ever, it’s important to do everything we can to manage stress to keep ourselves healthy. So get some sleep, get sweaty, and breathe it out.