As we enter the third year of the pandemic, our mental health continues to suffer. The American Psychological Association reports that stress in the country keeps mounting, with one in five Americans feeling more stressed at the beginning of 2022 than they did in early 2021.
Ultimately, this stress stems from various sources like work, school, relationships, and of course, COVID-19. As a result, a guide to understanding stress on SymptomFind details how it can manifest in different ways. It can show psychologically through forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and increased levels of anxiety. It can also manifest physically through dizziness, increased blood pressure, aches and pains — and your teeth.
Though it may seem unlikely, it's true: the stress you're feeling can have negative consequences for your dental health. Below are some ways stress can affect your teeth and how you can treat them.
How stress can affect your teeth
The Guardian explains that this condition, also known as bruxism, causes you to regularly grind your teeth or clench your jaw out of stress or anxiety. You may not be aware it is happening, as it’s usually done unconsciously in one’s sleep. To determine if you're experiencing bruxism, examine your teeth for unusual features like chips, pointed teeth with flattened tips, or teeth with sharp edges.
TMD and TMJ disorders
On a larger scale, stress-induced bruxism — along with the muscle tension that stress can also cause — may lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) that affect the jaw, as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders that affect the joints near your teeth. This can result in jaw aches, toothaches, pain when chewing or talking, tooth misalignment, and tooth sensitivity that can lead to cracks or chips.
Stress can cause tooth decay in a number of ways. First, individuals may neglect their oral health in the course of dealing with the source of their stress. People may also turn to habits like smoking and drinking or eating salty and sweet comfort foods to alleviate their stress. All these factors can speed up the process of decay, especially when combined.
According to this 2019 study published in Stress Challenges and Immunity inSpace, psychological stress negatively impacts the immune system's ability to protect against infection. When combined with aforementioned stress-induced factors like poor oral health and lifestyle habits, you're more likely to develop gum disease. In the worst-case scenario, this may lead to tooth loosening and tooth loss.
What you can do about it
Prioritize oral health
Make sure you're putting your oral health first, even when you're stressed. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and don't forget to floss afterward. Avoid lingering bacteria by replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 5months. You can also consider adding a rinse or mouthwash into your routine, ast his can reinforce your brushing and flossing efforts.
Alleviate your stress
Use healthy coping mechanisms to relieve your stress. For instance, you can avoid immersing yourself in the news or unwind with your favorite hobbies. It is also important to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Cut out unhealthy habits like drinking or smoking and replace your comfort foods with equally delicious balanced meals. Finally, don't bear the burden of your stress alone: avenues like talking to loved ones can help you through the tough times.
Consult a professional
If severe symptoms begin to hinder your daily life, seek expert advice. Telemedicine is a great cost-effective option for consulting professionals remotely and at your convenience. As outlined in our post ‘Stress and Teledentistry’, we are uniquely equipped to handle stress-related oral issues and even help you find a dentist if you don't have one. You can also set teleconsult appointments with a therapist if you wish to get to the root of your stress.
Though stress can be difficult, know that you don't have to go about it alone.By coping with your stress sustainably and seeking help when you need it, you can work your way toward a happier and less stressful life.
For more tips on this and related topics, feel free to visit us at TheTeledentists again soon!