How Stress Can Damage Our Oral Health
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Everyday we experience things that can make us feel anxious. We may stress over things like sitting in traffic before work, sticking to a fixed budget, or having to meet deadlines at work. Over the years, studies have shown that stress can be bad for our overall physical and mental health. Unfortunately, stress can also harm our oral health. At Prescott Dentistry, we’d like to point out the reality of how stress can damage our oral health, and make a few suggestions for lowering or eliminating the causes of stress.
How Can Stress Harm My Oral or Dental Health?
- Busy schedules and a high number of obligations can take our minds off of caring for our physical bodies. This can include what we eat, when we exercise, and how we care for our teeth. When people get busy, they tend to go for convenience foods like burgers from fast food places, which are high in fats, contain little to no nutritional value, and tend to be highly acidic or full of sugar. When we’re on the run and we eat poorly, chances are we’ll also neglect brushing twice each day or flossing daily—and we find that a few days have passed without practicing good oral care. Fast food diets and overly busy schedules can be bad for our dental health and physical health.
- Stress and anxiety can also hurt our immune systems (American Psychological Association, 2006). Not getting enough sleep also weakens our immune systems. When the immune system is down, we’re more prone to getting colds, gum disease, and other infections.
- When we are feeling tense, we may develop habits that aren’t good for us. Two of those habits are smoking and grinding our teeth. Smoking stains teeth, and worse, can lead to oral cancer, throat cancer, and even lung cancer. And surprisingly, cancers can also be triggered by high stress levels. Teeth grinding is hard on our teeth, but it’s one of those repetitive behaviors people develop when they’re deeply concerned about how to resolve a problem or solve an issue in their lives. One reason we grind our teeth is that simple behaviors like repetitive motions can be soothing to us in less than ideal situations or moods.
- Finally, busy days mean little time for doctor appointments, dental cleanings, and other health-oriented appointments. At Prescott Dentistry, that is the main reason some of our patients wait too long to visit our office. But dental cleanings are not something that should be skipped. Two cleanings a year are the standard in order to maintain dental health. These visits are also key for finding cavities, look for any signs of oral infection, gum disease, or even oral cancer.
At some point in our lives we all feel pressure and tension, but it’s how we deal with these feelings that is important. As hard as it may be to eat healthily, stay on top of our bedtime teeth cleaning routine, and stay committed to regular exercise, these are all essential for keeping our teeth strong and our body healthy.
Some positive ways to deal with stress are to work out, do calming stretches, go to bed early, and to make to-do lists about what needs to be accomplished. Organizing a list of things to accomplish and then scheduling those tasks into daily and weekly calendars will enable time to be apportioned more efficiently, and life will feel more manageable. Start by taking this list on how stress can damage our oral health and implementing our suggestions into next week’s schedule. And for a healthier smile, give us a call to plan for that next dental cleaning!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/7/2018) Sole Treadmill (Flickr)