Modern life can be stressful. The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them. It is the body’s natural response to a demanding situation.
Whilst we all need a certain amount of pressure to keep us mentally alert and motivated; too much stress can have a very detrimental affect on your quality of life and subsequently on your health. Your oral health can also be affected putting you at risk of a number of different conditions that can affect your mouth, teeth and gums.
The technical term for jaw clenching and teeth grinding is called bruxism. More often than not this happens during sleep so you may not even realise that you are doing it.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms it could be that you are grinding or clenching your teeth subconsciously;
You should make an appointment with your dentist who will be able to carry out an examination and offer help and advice. Sometimes a mouthguard is recommended for sleeping.
Daytime bruxism can occur too, if this is happening to you, try to keep your mouth relaxed and your teeth apart when you are not eating.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are a range of disorders that can affect the muscles and joints in the jaw and neck.
Temporomandibular Joint disorder is a condition that is specific to the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. Sore muscles and a clicking or popping of the jaw are indicators and constant clenching of the jaw can be the cause.
Again, if you think this could be affecting you, seek medical advice.
Some medicines that are used to treat stress and anxiety can have a drying effect on the mouth plus, feeling tense can cause you to breathe more rapidly and this in turn can dry your mouth out.
When the mouth is dry and not producing enough saliva; food particles, debris and bacteria are not being rinsed away and this can lead to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.
Keep your mouth hydrated and fresh by drinking water throughout the day. Eating crunchy fruit and vegetables can increase saliva production as can chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets/mints.
Too much stress can weaken your immune system which can mean that you are less able to fight infections.
A good oral care routine is always important; but when you are feeling tired and under pressure it is easy to let things slide, don’t be tempted to skip the toothbrushing before getting into bed at night.
Eat plenty of immune boosting foods such as beetroot, blueberries, garlic, green vegetables, brazil nuts and ginger.
When you are feeling under pressure it’s easy to revert to bad habits. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption both massively increase the risk of developing mouth cancer so try to find alternative ways to relax.
Small spots that have a white or greyish base and a red border are called canker sores. It is unclear why they occur, but it could be down to a weakened immune system, a virus or bacteria and increased anxiety will increase the chance of getting them.
They should clear up in about 10 days and in the meantime avoid spicy, acidic or hot foods that will irritate them.
The herpes simplex virus causes cold sores. Feeling upset, tired and run down can trigger an attack. They should heal on their own, but there are plenty of over the counter remedies that can help. Start treatment when you feel the tingling effect of one coming.
A well balanced lifestyle, following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise will all help to tackle the pressures that can sometimes overwhelm us and have an adverse effect on our health and wellbeing.
Here are some suggestions for relatively easy ways to combat stress –