Over the past couple of months, you may have been feeling more stressed out than usual, and rightfully so. Our lives have changed, some dramatically, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future and a bigger focus on staying healthy than maybe ever before. But believe it or not, the stress we’re feeling about staying healthy may be having the exact opposite effect. In fact, stress is known to affect both overall and oral health. Take it from this New York Times article and your dentist in Alexandria when we say that lowering your current stress levels can go a long way in keeping your body and your mouth healthy.
How Stress Relates to Oral Health
- Teeth Clenching & Grinding – One of the most common ways stress affects our oral health is by clenching and grinding our teeth. Oftentimes, this response to stress is done while sleeping or completely subconsciously. Basically, a lot of times we don’t even know we’re doing it. But how can we stop something we don’t know is happening? Well, while we may not be aware of the habit while we’re doing it, the side effects of clenching and grinding are often obvious. Constantly clenching or grinding our teeth can result in chipped, broken, or cracked teeth. If this happens, your dentist in Alexandria will want to restore your tooth. Stressful clenching and grinding can also put unnatural and excessive stress on the jaw joint, known as your TMJ or temporomandibular joint. Over time, this can cause something called TMJ disorder or TMD which is a painful condition that can cause popping or clicking of the jaw or even a locked jaw.
- Gum Disease – Another way stress can affect oral health and, in turn, overall health is through gum disease. Gum disease is often caused by tobacco use or poor oral hygiene, but increased levels of stress can also increase the risk of developing gum disease. If not treated by your dentist in Alexandria, gum disease can lead to other whole-body health concerns such as the increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, and some cancers.
- Canker Sores – Even though stress is not the only thing that can cause canker sores, research conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry suggests a possible correlation between stress and canker sore development. Canker sores are tiny red or white sores that resemble ulcers. They can be painful but are not contagious.
Stay Healthy By Lowering Stress
Stress can affect not only your oral health but your overall health, too. And nowadays, it’s incredibly important to do everything you can to lower stress and stay healthy. Some stress-reduction techniques recommended by experts include:
- Sleep. Our bodies recover as we sleep. This means our immune system is better prepared to fight off infections. It also means lower stress levels. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, avoid your phone or other sources of blue light at least an hour before bed, listen to relaxing music or calming sounds, and keep a regular sleep schedule even on days you don’t have to get up.
- Exercise. Scheduling time for some exercise every day not only helps your cardiovascular and muscular systems, but it can also reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins, the happy chemical, and can lower the feelings of stress. So dust off that treadmill or get your downward dog on, whatever you do, get some sort of exercise daily.
- Meditate. Some cultures have been using mediation as a way to relax and stay healthy for centuries. Focusing on your breath and clearing your mind has been proven to lower heart rate and stress levels. Find an app that will guide you through mediation practices and set aside time each day to just breathe.
Just like the way stress affects everyone differently, stress reduction is different for everyone, too. Try a few techniques above, keep practicing, and find what works best for you.
We’re always accepting new patients from Alexandria, Old Town, Del Ray, and nearby areas.