Stress can be caused by any number of things, such as work and family. But in these uncertain times, it’s only natural to experience elevated levels of stress. Too much stress can have negative effects on bodies such as headaches, stomachaches, increased heart rate, and overall feelings of anxiety. But your dentist in St. Louis also wants you to know that high levels of stress can also affect your oral health. Let’s examine a few ways in which this happens, as well as what you can do to help protect yourself.
- Jaw Pain & Discomfort
Your jaw joint, or your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is one of the main areas where stress can affect your oral health. When we’re overly stressed, we tend to have a subconscious response that causes us to clench or grind our teeth repeatedly. This constant pressure on both the teeth and jaw muscles can lead to jaw pain as well as damage to teeth. Over time, if the clenching and grinding continue, you may develop TMJ disorder. This often painful condition is usually accompanied by jaw popping or clicking or even a locked jaw. It’s best to see your dentist in St. Louis when you start experiencing these symptoms.*
- Canker Sores
Many of us have experienced the discomfort of the canker sore or other similar sores in our mouths. These sores often resemble ulcers and can be white or red spots or lines. While there is no definite cause of a canker sore, studies conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry support the hypothesis that canker sores can occur more often in those who undergo prolonged periods of stress. Canker sores can be annoying and a little bit painful, but they aren’t contagious.
- Gum Disease
One of the most common dental diseases that affect Americans is gum disease. Typically, the cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene or smoking. But there have been recent studies that suggest a connection between stress and gum disease. It’s also important to know that this oral health disease doesn’t only increase the risk of problems in the mouth, such as tooth loss, it can also contribute to problems throughout the body. Gum disease has been linked to overall health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and some cancers. Some signs of gum disease include bleeding while brushing or flossing, chronic bad breath, or swollen gums. If you notice any of these, call your dentist in St. Louis.*
Reduce Your Stress, Reduce Your Risk
Reducing stress levels can go a long way in protecting both your overall health as well as your oral health. While everyone is different and stress-management techniques can vary in effectiveness from person-to-person, there are a few trusted tips health professionals recommend.
- Sleep. Getting enough sleep every night can help our bodies recover and lower stress. If you have trouble falling asleep, try to avoid blue light an hour before bed, listen to calming music or sounds, and follow a regular routine of waking up the same time every day.
- Exercise. Whether you decide to go for a walk, dust off your yoga mat, or follow a workout video, make sure you do some sort of exercise every day. Physical activity can release endorphins and can decrease stress.
- Breathe. Simply focusing on your breathing or practicing daily meditation can do wonders in lowering blood pressure as well as stress. Take a few minutes every day to focus on deep breathing exercises or try out an app that guides you through a meditation session.
During these uncertain times, we’re bound to feel stressed out occasionally. Make sure you focus on identifying when you’re feeling this way and practice lowering stress levels to help keep your body, mind, and oral health in good shape.
*At the time of publishing, the ADA recommends that all preventive dental appointments and non-emergency consultations be postponed. Please check with your local regulations.