Stress From Tax Day Can Negatively Impact Your Oral Health
The month of April and especially April 18th may be more taxing for many Americans as they work to finalize their taxes – talk about a stressful time! Speaking of stress, April was designated National Stress Awareness Month by the Health Resource Network (HRN) in an effort to bring awareness to the dangers associated with stress and how to deal with it on a daily basis. It is important to remember to take the time to de-stress and learn about the impact stress has on your oral health.
Studies have shown that stress can have harmful effects on our health, but did you know that our mouths can also be affected by stress? Your dentist can detect oral symptoms of stress during regular dental examinations and cleanings. Dental problems that can develop as a result of stress in our lives include:
- Bruxism (teeth grinding), a condition in which you clench or grind your teeth, can lead to tooth damage. Individuals who are stressed are more likely to unconsciously grind their teeth throughout the day or during sleep. A special mouthguard may help protect mouths from the effects of grinding at night.
- Dry mouth can occur as a direct result of stress. During stressful times, your body may not produce enough saliva, leading to a dry mouth. In addition, certain medications that help alleviate stress and anxiety may also cause dry mouth.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (or TMD) is thought to be directly caused by stress. This condition affects your temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull, located near your ears) and the muscles involved in the movement of your jaw and neck. It occurs when tightening face and jaw muscles leading to clenching of your teeth. Ask your dentist if you experience any symptoms of TMD such as jaw pain or clicking and flattened tips of teeth due to grinding.
- Canker sores can be brought on by a higher stress level and are often triggered as a result of traumatic experiences like biting the inside of your cheek or vigorous brushing of teeth.
- Poor oral health habits can be exacerbated by stress. People who are stressed are less likely to maintain a good oral health routine, which can lead to tooth decay.
Additionally, stress can possibly cause gum disease to progress faster in people who have it. Reducing your stress level can greatly benefit your oral health as well as your overall health. Some simple ways to help you de-stress include:
- Talking with a close friend or family member
- Setting realistic goals in your personal and work life
- Exercising regularly
- Eating healthy, well-balanced meals
- Getting a good night's rest
- Taking part in sports, events and your favorite hobbies2
In addition to reducing stress in your life, be sure to also maintain good oral health habits, like brushing teeth twice with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once every day in addition to regularly visiting your dentist.