Stress is supposed to be a brief flight-or-fight response in response to critical situations. The premise is that a short period of heightened awareness and alertness provides patients with a boost in strength and abilities to resolve the problem until the patient is safe and can resume normal activity. However, our society and obligations can leave us in an extended – if not near-permanent – state of stress, which can be harmful to the entire body.
How Stress Damages Oral Health
Excessive stress can trigger bruxism, causing patients to grind their teeth during the night. Constant teeth-grinding can cause wear and tear on the teeth, headaches, and jaw pain. Overstressed patients also have weakened immune systems, rendering them more vulnerable to oral health problems caused by bacteria and other pathogens, including tooth decay and gum disease. Stress can also promote unhealthy dietary choices, including favoring sugary foods to maintain energy levels. These unhealthy foods can cause both direct and indirect damage to teeth by weakening enamel and bolstering harmful bacteria.
Stress Management Techniques
Getting sufficient amounts of sleep is a great way to reduce stress. Refraining from caffeine and other stimulants before bed, when combined with conscious relaxation, can significantly improve the chances of patients getting a good night's sleep. Measures to cure or treat bruxism – such as custom-made nightguards or oral surgery – will increase quality of sleep and reduce pain, both of which will lower stress levels. Routine changes, including scheduling relaxation times, integrating exercise, and organizing and prioritizing tasks, can make challenges and irritations more manageable.
Chronic stress weakens the entire body, including the mouth. Reducing stress should be a top priority for patients. Our team can help mitigate oral problems caused by stress. Contact our office today for a consultation and a dental exam so we can help you manage your stress-related oral problems.