April is National Stress Awareness Month, and its mission is to raise awareness of the negative health impacts of prolonged stress. While many of the effects of long-term stress are well known, including heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, and difficulty in managing diabetes, your dentist in Walnut Creek wants to raise awareness of the fact that stress can also negatively impact oral health.
The Body’s Response to Stress
When we feel stressed, our bodies will react in ways we may not even realize. For example, our immune system’s response will become delayed, and our adrenal glands will release the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. The surge in these hormones will cause our nervous system to enter “fight or flight” mode, which is beneficial in times of short-term stress. But when it comes to prolonged stress, it can affect our memories, and learning systems, and increase the risk of depression. Additionally, heightened periods of stress can seriously affect oral health.
- Tooth Decay & Stress
During periods of prolonged stress, we are more susceptible to tooth decay. Why? Stress can cause our bodies to remove the naturally occurring protective minerals and allow dangerous bacteria and acid to linger around in the mouth. This can increase the likelihood of developing a cavity. Additionally, when we are stressed, we tend to resort to things that make us feel better, including alcohol, nicotine, or foods loaded with sugars. But these clutches can inevitably cause more harm than good.
- Gum Disease
Study upon study has shown a correlation between the development of gum disease and experiencing stress. There are several theories behind why this happens. One of which is when we are feeling stressed, we tend to bypass everyday things like brushing and flossing our teeth. Additionally, since increased stress levels can make our immune systems less effective, it means that our bodies can’t effectively fight off bad bacteria in the mouth. This increases the risk of developing gum disease. If not treated by a dentist in Walnut Creek quickly, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, bad breath, and a whole host of other health problems, such as heart disease.
- Jaw Pain
Everyone experiences and reacts to stress differently. Some of the most common side effects of increased stress include clenching or grinding your teeth. These reactions are often done without us even realizing we’re doing it, but they can lead to some problems. For example, when we clench or grind our teeth, whether it’s done while we’re awake or asleep, the jaw can experience unnatural pressure and cause pain. Other signs that you’re clenching or grinding may include:
- Jaw clicking
- Weakened tooth enamel
- Increased tooth sensitivity
Reduce Stress, Protect Teeth
Combating stress is tough because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, here are some tips you can try to reduce stress and protect your teeth.
- Eat a Healthy Diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with fruits, veggies, and whole grains will allow your body to function properly and can help keep stress levels low.
- Exercise Often. Exercising, even if it’s a quick walk around the block, will activate the “feel good” chemicals in our bodies that make us feel happier and less stressed.
- Get Enough Sleep. Adults should get anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. This will help your body relax and reset, lowering stress.
Oral health is the window to overall health, and taking good care of it can help protect your body from some scary, and serious problems. One of the best things you can do to ensure a healthy mouth is to see your dentist in Walnut Creek every six months for regular checkups. Schedule an appointment with us today.