There are many things to feel stressed about, from taking care of work obligations to handling all the things that are happening in your personal life. While a certain amount of stress can actually be a good thing, too much of it can cause problems. In fact, excessive stress has been linked to heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity. But, not to stress you out even more, your dentist in Ann Arbor knows that too much stress can also affect your oral health.
Stress & Oral Health
Many times, the effects of stress are simplified to include only things like increased anxiety levels, eating habits, headaches, and stomachaches. But it’s also common for signs of stress to first show up as symptoms that affect your oral health. In fact, stress can affect oral health in numerous ways.
- Jaw Pain
While jaw pain could indicate a variety of problems, stress is often at the top of the list. When we’re stressed, especially over a long period of time, our bodies tend to react in a variety of ways. One of those ways is to start clenching or grinding our teeth together. Oftentimes this is done without us even knowing it’s happening, such as during sleep. This results in constant pressure on the jaw joint, making the muscles sore which could eventually cause TMJ disorder or TMD. TMD is painful, and some common signs are the popping or clicking of a jaw, a locked joint, or generalized jaw pain. If you have jaw pain that you can’t explain, talk to your dentist in Ann Arbor.
- Bleeding Gums
Many people think that it’s normal for gums to bleed after brushing or flossing. However, bleeding gums at any time should be cause for concern. Bleeding gums is a tell-tale sign of gum disease, but there’s a common misconception related to gum disease. Many people think that gum disease is automatically a result of poor dental hygiene. But the truth is, several other things can increase the risk of gum disease, including smoking, certain medications, clenching or grinding your teeth, and yes, stress. When we experience too much stress, our immune system often becomes worn down. This can allow bad bacteria in the mouth to flourish, causing an infection and leading to gum disease. Gum disease can cause tooth loss, and heart disease, and increase the risk of stroke.
- Mouth Sores
Sores in the mouth, such as canker sores, can be triggered by a vitamin B deficiency or a variety of injuries or irritations. Research also supports the theory that mouth sores can appear during periods of increased stress. Mouth sores that should warrant a visit to your dentist in Ann Arbor include those that appear as white or red ulcers that last longer than two weeks.
Reducing Stress Can Benefit Oral Health
We can’t completely avoid stress in our lives but can do things to manage stress in order to live happier lives and protect ourselves against the negative side effects of too much of it. Some ways to lower stress and therefore the effects of stress, include:
- Breathing Techniques. Sometimes, all we need to do is breathe. Deep breathing has been shown to reduce stress, lower your heart rate, and make you feel relaxed. Take a walk, try yoga, or find a breathing exercise online.
- Exercise. Exercise can do more than burn fat. In fact, exercising regularly will increase our brains’ “happy chemicals” of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone. These chemicals can help make us feel good and lower anxiety and stress.
- Sleep. Adults should get anywhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. However, many of us don’t. Focusing on getting a good night’s sleep can reboot your body and lower stress levels.
Stress is a natural part of life, and certain amounts of it can actually be beneficial. But too much can cause problems in oral and overall health. During this Stress Awareness Month, focus on your stress levels and how they may contribute to your overall health.
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