The Effects of Stress on Your Smile

by MikeMeehan 12/7/2016 3:04 PM

It seems like stress is everywhere, especially as 2016 winds down. For many people, the holiday season promises higher levels of stress — shopping, decorating, baking, cleaning, entertaining…the list goes on. And this doesn’t even cover day-to-day stresses we may encounter at work and/or at home. Stress has a lot of negative effects on the body, from high blood pressure and cholesterol to heart disease. It’s also tough on the teeth. The Role of Stress on the Body To understand the role of stress on teeth, let’s start with the role of stress on the body. Stress is defined as “A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” This strain comes about when the brain perceives a threat. As the brain processes the threat, it decides one of three reactions: fight, flee or freeze. Once that decision is made, the pituitary gland releases adrenaline and cortisol into the system. Depending on the circumstances, the hormones might get released even if the body isn’t experiencing a real threat. Or the hormone might release continually. When this happens, it can have negative effects on the body, especially on teeth. Five Ways Stress Is Bad for Oral Health 1.     Stress increases risk for gum disease. Stress hurts the body’s ability to deal with infections, including gum disease. 2.    Stress makes us more susceptible to dental cavities. When we have more cortisol in our systems, our bodies produce acid. Our overall pH-balance influences our health. The scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Ideally, we want a concentration between 7.35 and 7.45. Too much stress, however, leans us toward acidic. To compensate, the body draws minerals out of bones and teeth. Not only does stress automatically make our bodies more acidic, we tend to cope by increasing our use of products like caffeine, sugar and alcohol, which can affect our mood and sleep. Plus, sugar and alcohol can also contribute to tooth decay, and several caffeinated products can stain teeth. 3.    Stress can lead to bruxism. Higher levels of stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth at night. This clenching or grinding is called bruxism. Symptoms could include waking up with a headache on a regular basis and experiencing tooth sensitivity, due to enamel rubbing off. If you are suffering from bruxism, you might want to wear a mouth guard when you go to sleep. 4.    Stress can cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). The temporomandibular joint joins the jaw to the skull. TMJD also represents the muscles used to move the jaw. If you feel jaw joint pain or you catch your jaw popping or clicking, TMJD may be the cause. Depending on how severe it is, you might need to consult your dentist to relax your jaw muscles. If it’s not too severe, watch more funny movies, as laughter can relax muscles. 5.    Stress can cause canker sores. These small lesions form on the soft tissues inside your mouth. They are self-treatable, non-contagious and usually go away after two weeks.   Six Easy Steps to Alleviate Stress Nobody would say stress is good, but most people probably don’t realize just how devastating it can be. To alleviate stress, practice these six simple techniques. 1.     Sleep. Your body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re under a lot of stress, you may want to consider being more mindful of your bedtime. When the sun sets, put all technology away (computer, smartphone, TV) and focus on rest. 2.    Eat nutritiously. Remember what we said earlier about caffeine, sugar and alcohol — how it can make the body more acidic? A nutritious diet can alkalize your body and give you more energy. 3.    Exercise. Thirty minutes of consistent exercise a day can reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and put you in a better mood. 4.    Meditate. “If you are depressed, you live in the past,” said Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. “If you are anxious, you live in the future. If you are happy, you live in the present.” Most stress, it appears, comes from living too much in the past or future. By meditating, you can begin to train your mind to focus on the present. 5.    Brush twice a day and floss daily. We’ve written before “You can’t spell overall without oral.” As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness. If stress is threatening your wellness, you can respond by maintaining a consistent brushing and flossing routine. 6.    Visit your dentist every six months. Don’t go through stress alone. By visiting your dentist, you’re more likely to catch some of these negative effects before they become bigger problems. While we’d all prefer to live in a stress-free world, it’s not always possible. By practicing these techniques, you can hopefully alleviate stress and maintain your beautiful smile.

Your Teeth and Methamphetamine — Why You Shouldn’t Test It, Even Once

by MikeMeehan 12/1/2016 2:44 PM

This goes without saying: Meth is bad for you. Unfortunately, in recent years, it seems to be gaining popularity. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported 595,000 regular users in 2013, compared to 353,000 in 2010. Meth is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Some people use it because it can work as a euphoriant or aphrodisiac. It’s also highly addictive, which can lead to higher dosages and long-term abuse. When that happens, the long-term effects are many, according to NIDA: Addiction. Psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations and repetitive motor activity. Changes in brain structure and function. Deficits in thinking and motor skills. Increased distractibility. Memory loss. Aggressive or violent behavior. Mood disturbances. Meth is also bad on teeth. In fact, it’s so bad that dentists have a word for it: meth mouth. Meth Mouth: A Massive Problem Meth mouth refers to severe tooth decay — teeth that are blackened, stained or rotting out. Teeth can be so worn down they break, fall out or have to be extracted. Meth causes other tooth problems, too, such as tooth fracture and acid erosion. Not only can this destroy a person’s smile, it can rob them of their ability to chew. According to the American Dental Association, an examination of the mouths of 571 methamphetamine users showed: 96% had cavities 58% had untreated tooth decay 31% had six or more missing teeth So why is meth so toxic to the mouth? Four Reasons Meth Really Messes Up the Mouth Meth is extremely acidic. One of the most popular methods of meth manufacturing is to fuse red phosphorus with hydroiodic acid. Other ingredients can include lye and battery acid. These are corrosive on enamel, causing it to flake off. Usually, the front teeth are the first to decay. The damage can work all the way down to the dental pulp. Dental pulp is just beneath the dentin of a tooth. Dentin is protected by enamel, and dental pulp by dentin. With damaged dental pulp, teeth stop receiving the moisture and nutrients they need. Damaged dental pulp can also lead to increased sensitivity. Meth causes extremely dry mouth. The clinical name for extremely dry mouth is xerostomia. Xerostomia is bad, because saliva contains enzymes that kill bacteria. When the mouth is extremely dry, it doesn’t produce saliva to kill bacteria, and bacteria can proliferate, causing tooth decay. Many users don’t maintain a healthy diet. While on meth, many people substitute sugary snacks and soda for normal healthy meals, according to the American Dental Association. Meth can cause users to clench their teeth. Prolonged use of meth can cause psychosis. This can lead to bruxism, also known as teeth grinding. Bruxism can wear down teeth. Black spots on teeth shouldn’t just indicate meth has led to a few cavities. They should reveal meth use has gone too far, and addiction has already taken hold. Don’t let meth destroy your smile. If you or a loved one is addicted to meth, seek help now. You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or find treatment online.

More than Just a Piece of Thread: Choosing the Right Kind of Floss

by MikeMeehan 11/23/2016 2:49 PM

Flossing has come under fire recently. The U.S. Department of Health excluded a recommendation of floss in its latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans updates, claiming there’s not enough evidence flossing prevents gum disease or tooth decay. We, however, believe you should keep flossing. Flossing has been shown to reduce inflammation and bleeding of the gums, but only in short-term studies. The cost of a long-term study would take years and would cost a lot of money. Plus, there would be ethical ramifications from the non-floss group if flossing turned out to prevent long-term disease. While flossing may not have a whole slew of evidence in its favor, it is low-risk and doesn’t cost a lot. So we’ll keep recommending it. But choosing floss, believe it or not, can be complicated. You might ask, How is it complicated? It’s just a piece of thread. Floss is more than just a piece of thread. Consider these factors when determining which floss is right for you. Three Types of Floss Before you can determine specific preferences, you first have to decide between three types of floss: Nylon floss Monofilament floss Dental tape If you aren’t sure which one you use, it’s probably nylon floss. Nylon floss is the most common. But, in some circumstances, you might consider a different type. Drop the nylon floss if: Your flossing experience often involves the floss ripping or tearing. Nothing can be more annoying than having to unravel a new strand of floss from the spool because your strand snapped in two halfway through flossing. If this is a frequent occurrence, you may want to consider monofilament floss. It’s made of either rubber, plastic, or polytetrafluoroethylene — not fabric, like nylon — so it doesn’t shred as easy. You have a lot of bridgework or wide gaps between your teeth. In these cases, you may want to consider dental tape. Dental tape is wider and flatter than nylon tape, so it can more effectively clean out spaces between teeth.   If these aren’t concerns for you, nylon floss is a little cheaper. After choosing which type of floss, you still have another decision to make. Wax On or Wax Off? Should you buy waxed floss or unwaxed? Well, both will do the trick. And, when weighing pros against cons, some of the pros are subjective. For example, one camp claims waxed floss is easier to slide between crowded teeth, due to the wax coating on the nylon. The other camp, however, cites unwaxed floss as being easier to maneuver, due to its being thinner than waxed floss. Some qualities to consider when purchasing floss include: Waxed floss is more flavorful. Let’s face it: When flossing tastes good, you’re more likely to make it a part of your routine. The same goes for your children: If bubblegum flavored floss works as an incentive for them, then waxed floss is probably the way to go. This could also be just as much incentive to go with unwaxed. If you’re pregnant, for example, the flavor could trigger nausea. Unwaxed floss squeaks against clean teeth. Unwaxed floss will squeak against clean teeth, signaling to you plaque has been removed. Most waxed floss is coated in Teflon. Teflon is a tough synthetic resin made by polymerizing polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as the stuff used on non-stick cookware. Some people claim Teflon can be toxic to the body and can cause health issues like certain types of cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, does not suspect it of causing cancer. Once you’ve figured out what type of floss works best for you, you might have one more option to consider. Flossing tools Depending on your circumstances, you might need certain flossing tools. Floss holder For example, if you can’t wrap floss around your fingers, or if you have to floss for a parent or child, you may want to consider a Y- or U-shaped floss holder. Rather than thread a strand of floss between two fingers, you can use a pre-threaded device for farther reach or easier maneuverability. Floss threader Or you may want to consider a floss threader. A floss threader comes in handy if you have wide gaps between your teeth or if you have a child with braces. The threader is a flexible piece of plastic with a loop at one end. For braces, link a strand of floss to the loop, then slide the pointed end of the threader through the bridgework of the braces until the linked strand of floss has access to the tooth. Five Steps to Better Flossing While it’s a good idea to find the right floss for you, what’s more valuable is flossing the right way. Flossing, like brushing, should take about two minutes and incorporate these five steps: Start with an 18-inch strand of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the same finger on your other hand. Tighten floss with about an inch of floss between your hands. Glide floss between teeth with a gentle sawing motion. Curve it into a C against your tooth. Hold the floss against each tooth, gently scraping the tooth’s side while moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth. Don’t forget the back ones. Rinse to remove any loosened plaque and food particles. Flossing may be under fire by some, but it is another tactic for removing plaque buildup on teeth. So, by using the right kind of floss, coupled with the right technique, you can expect results.

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