Ask a Hygienist: Stress and Your Oral Health
Lately we’ve been seeing a wave of new oral health concerns from patients.
“I’ve been so stressed that I feel like I am clenching my teeth all the time.”
“I have been working from home and sometimes I forget to brush my teeth in the mornings”
“My self-care has been lacking due to depression.”
So many of us are far from our “normal” and out of our regular routines. We are stressed, tired, and just trying to make it through this strange time.
Our body responds to stress down to a molecular level. Stress affects the immune system and can cause an imbalance in inflammatory reactions in the body and increase vulnerability to illness, oral ulcers, infection, and decreased wound-healing.
Stress can also cause people to neglect their oral health, especially since poor mental health often correlates with a lack of self-care. Eating habits are often altered, with an increase of sugar and snacking which can increase your risk for cavities. Alternatively, one may be eating less often or eating softer foods – taking away the mechanical movement of chewing and therefore increasing plaque accumulation. Many people cope with harmful habits such as smoking (which increases your risk for periodontal disease, cancer, and cavities), nail-biting (causing wear and chipped teeth), cheek and lip biting (resulting in painful sores or ulcers), and teeth clenching (causing tooth wear and fatigue in the TMJ).
Okay, so now that I have thrown all these stress-inducing scenarios out there, what can you do? Do your best. Meticulous oral care might be the last thing on your mind lately, we get that. Make an appointment for routine, preventative care – especially if you have seen an increase in bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, or have increased jaw pain.
It’s our job to assist you in finding ways to personalize your oral hygiene regimen during these unprecedented times. We understand, and we’re here for you.
Do you have a dental question for Lauren? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what’s on your mind.