How Does Stress Affect Your Oral Health?

How Does Stress Affect Your Oral Health?

Stress is the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. When you feel stressed, your body responds by releasing hormones and other substances that prepare you for "fight or flight." This stress response triggers changes in your heart rate and blood pressure and increases your blood flow to your muscles and brain. Although this response can help you react quickly in a crisis, it can also have negative effects on your oral health. For example, increased heart rate and blood pressure can increase the risk of tooth decay or gum disease. Additionally, you may have trouble sleeping due to rapidly changing hormone levels. This can affect your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of diabetes. Taking steps to avoid feeling stressed can help reduce the impact of stress on your oral health. For example, learning to deal with stressful situations in a healthy way may reduce their impact on your health. Another way you can reduce stress is with exercise. Physical activity helps decrease stress hormones in your body. Whatever method you choose, reducing stress can help protect your smile.

Stress and Your Oral Health

Going to the dentist's office can cause anxiety in some patients, especially patients who haven't been to the dentist in a while or patients who suffer from dental phobias. Fortunately, there are several ways a dentist can help alleviate a patient's anxiety and make their visit more pleasant.

One way dentists reduce anxiety is by offering multiple sedation options, including oral consciousness, nitrous oxide, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. Patients can also take a pill called Ativan before an appointment if they experience extreme anxiety. Dentists are trained to administer these medications when necessary. Some offices may even offer massage chairs and TVs in the waiting room to help patients feel more at ease.

Another way stress affects oral health is when a person grinds or clenches their teeth while sleeping. This puts significant pressure on the teeth and jaw and causes teeth to become worn down over time. It can also cause pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can lead to headaches and pain when chewing. People who grind their teeth may find it helpful to use a night guard, which is a mouthguard that is worn at night to prevent clenching or grinding of the teeth. A night guard can help reduce tooth damage and prevent other health problems related to gum disease, TMJ disorders, and sleep apnea.

How to Manage Stress

Stress can have a number of effects on your oral health, including changes to your diet and how often you brush or floss your teeth. Here are some tips on how to manage stress, so your teeth and gums stay healthy.

  • Reduce your caffeine intake. Coffee, soda, and other drinks with high amounts of caffeine can make your mouth more sensitive to bacteria that cause cavities. Drinking beverages with lots of sugar can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Many people turn to alcohol when stressed as a way of coping, but this can lead to dry mouth and other issues. Try to limit yourself to one drink a day to reduce your stress levels and oral health risks.
  • Practice mindful meditation. Meditation is a good way to relax and clear your mind. You can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, but many people find it helpful to do meditation sessions in the same room where they brush their teeth at night. This will help you to establish a routine to trigger relaxation no matter where you are. You can also incorporate other routines into your daily routine like stretching or taking a warm bath before you go to bed to help you relax before bed. Taking a few minutes every day to practice self-care will help you manage stress and lower your risk for oral health issues.
  • Get enough sleep each night. Sleep is essential for your overall health in many ways, and it can also help you reduce stress. If you aren't getting enough sleep each night, then it can lead to increased levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body react to stressful situations by activating the fight-or-flight response. When you don't sleep enough, it can result in higher levels of this hormone which can increase stress symptoms and contribute to poor oral health. Talk to your doctor about other ways to manage your cortisol levels if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Don't use tobacco products. Even a small amount of tobacco can greatly increase your chances of gum disease. Tobacco use also causes dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath and more plaque buildup. 

Request an appointment or call Phoenix Family Dentistry at (602) 755-6684 for an appointment in our Phoenix office.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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