Stress is a known contributor to many health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Yet, people sometimes overlook how serious the effects of stress are on their oral health. Stress can lead to serious dental issues such as tooth fractures and gum disease when left unchecked.
While you may not be able to eliminate stress completely from your life, you can minimize its effects upon your oral health. Add these tips to your stress management plan to reduce your risk of sustaining damage to your teeth and gums.
1. Establish an Oral Hygiene Routine
When you live a fast-paced lifestyle, you may find it hard to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. However, proper brushing and flossing help to prevent some of the worst effects of stress such as gum disease.
Make it easy to stay on track with your oral hygiene by making it a habit of carrying toothbrushing supplies with you during the day. This way, you can brush your teeth on your lunch break if you forget to do it in the morning. Alternatively, you could set an alarm to remind you to brush in the evening if you tend to get busy before bedtime.
2. Choose Teeth-Friendly Snacks
Food cravings sometimes arise during periods of stress. Unfortunately, stress eating can lead to more than just an extra few pounds on your waistline. If you tend to crave sweets or carb-heavy foods when you are stressed out, then you could be exposing your teeth to higher levels of acids that lead to decay.
Try exploring healthier options for snacks when you are stressed out. For instance, apples or celery sticks could replace chips if you are craving something with a crunch. These snacks are healthier for your teeth because the fibers help to remove plaque from the enamel.
When you crave something sweet, try berries or grapes. These types of food contain vitamin C and antioxidants that promote better gum health, and they are less likely to stick to your teeth than candy.
3. Guard Against Tooth Grinding
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, can have many causes that range from an incorrect bite to sleep disorders. However, those who deal with chronic stress tend to grind their teeth more than people who are relaxed. Watch for signs of tooth grinding such as worn down teeth or pain in your jaw that occurs when you wake up.
If you notice signs of tooth grinding, then explore ways to relax during the day and before bed. For instance, you may find it helpful to learn special exercises to relax your jaw when you feel tense. A dentist can also fit you for a night guard that protects your teeth from grinding that occurs in your sleep.
4. Schedule Regular Dental Exams
A visit to the dentist is one of your best lines of defense against damage caused by stress to your teeth. During a dental exam, the dentist can check for signs of stress-related issues such as canker sores or chipped teeth that arise from grinding.
If you find that a visit to the dentist is stressful in itself, then talk to the staff about your anxiety so that they can help you find ways to relax during the visit. For instance, you might be able to listen to music during a treatment to block the sounds of the dental tools.
Alternatively, you might benefit from treatments such as same day dental crowns that reduce how many times you must come to the office.
When stress hits high levels, you must take action to prevent it from turning into bigger issues that affect your ability to eat and speak comfortably. Contact Jay A. Hollander, DDS today to schedule an exam that helps protect your oral health from a stressful lifestyle.