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Stress And Your Oral Health

2020 August 17
by admin

Life often throws up challenges, some of which can result in harm to your teeth and gums

Few would disagree that 2020 has not been a good year. Every headline seems to bring negative and often stressful news, whether it be the Covid-19 pandemic or the trauma caused by the current examination results. At every turn, it seems like there is something happening which just wants to make our lives more difficult. It is no wonder then that many people are reporting that they are feeling more stressed than at any other time in their life. This probably isn’t helped by the difficulties involved in getting away for a break from it all!

It is well known that stress can contribute to a number of health issues including heart problems and it is therefore important that we do what we can to manage this. We will offer a few tips on this later on. Although we often associate stress problems with the heart, it can also play a role in the deterioration of teeth and gum health as well.

Stress eating

Ask almost any of our Burton or Ashby patients and they will probably admit that their diet has changed over the last few months. Whilst some may have taken the time to do more home cooking, many will have turned to comfort foods to try to help ease the strains and stresses. In the majority of cases, these are likely to be unhealthy and potentially tooth damaging foodstuffs. Cakes, biscuits and sweets offer those with a sweet tooth something pleasant to take their minds off other things. Whilst the odd one won’t do too much harm, as long as we clean our teeth well, a regular habit may lead to both tooth decay and/or gum disease.

Smoking and alcohol

Smoking is sometimes turned to in stressful times. Even just taking those few moments to focus on the simple action of smoking apparently makes some people, at least temporarily, feel better about the world. This could be described as a case of ‘fools gold’ though. Although it may give us a little respite, the harm that smoking causes to our oral health is simply not worth it. Gum disease is much more prevalent in smokers and oral cancer is a genuine risk as well.

Alcohol can have a similar effect and can even make matters worse if we take certain actions whilst under the influence of alcohol. Although a small amount of alcohol can help us to relax; too much or too often and again, gum disease or mouth cancer risks are increased.

Teeth grinding

One common habit associated with stress which can have a significant impact on our teeth is Bruxism, or teeth grinding. This often happens subconsciously when we are asleep and can be difficult to control. Grinding our teeth together in this manner over a period of time may well result in worn and eroded teeth and potentially even breakages. Although we have a range of treatments available at Alexandra Dental Care to help rebuild teeth affected by this once the habit is broken, it is far better to reduce your stress levels to prevent it if you can.

Anxiety when visiting the dentist

Some of our Burton and Ashby patients find seeing a dentist challenging at the best of times. Despite the care and friendliness of our team, it is just a fact of life that some people really don’t like visiting a dentist due to their anxiety. Added stress is likely to make this situation even worse. Some may have also missed appointments during lockdown and find that the longer wait for an appointment has only added to this.

Please do remember that you need to have ongoing dental care to keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you neglect this, minor issues that could have been resolved with a relatively straightforward procedure may eventually need more complex and longer treatment later on to preserve the tooth. Remember; we do offer nervous dental patients IV sedation which can make the experience much less stressful. Please do ask us about this if you think it will help you receive treatment.

How to de-stress?

We are all different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for overcoming stress. The following are some initial suggestions and may give you some other ideas too.

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet room and close your eyes. Breathe gently and picture yourself in your favourite place. Do this for a few minutes a few times a day.
  • Go for a walk or a run/cycle. It doesn’t have to be overly energetic. The fresh air and exercise will help to reduce your stress levels. If possible, try to do this as close to nature as you can. Many people find that this ‘grounds’ them.
  • Spoil yourself. We have become accustomed to certain ‘norms’. Sometimes it is worth breaking these. If you can, take time out in the day to do something that you really enjoy. If it means taking half an hour to watch daytime TV or even having a snooze, if it works for you, try to allow yourself the luxury to do it.
  • Reduce your social media time. Although social media can be an excellent source of information and a way of staying in touch with others, it can also sometimes be quite ‘toxic’. There is a lot of hate and anger on many posts and sometimes switching off and focussing on your own life can be a big help.

These are just a few suggestions and we are sure that others will come to mind too. The important thing is that we try to reduce our stress levels. Times are pretty tough right now but hopefully, this is temporary and we will be able to get some sort of normality back again in the not too far off future. Of course, if you find that your stress levels are increasing to a point where you feel it could harm your general health, please also consider seeing your GP.

In the meantime, please also remember to brush and floss your teeth well and make sure that you keep regular appointments at Alexandra Dental Care to help keep your teeth and gums in the best condition possible. You can call us to arrange an appointment on 01283 216347.

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