How Stress Can Harm You: From the perspective of your oral and vision health

by MikeMeehan 4/18/2017 1:31 PM

We talk about it, hear about it and complain about it. The phrase “I’m stressed out” has become so overused, we may even dismiss it. Despite the abundant information and worn out terms, the harm stress can cause is worthy of the overemphasis. So we are going to use the occasion of Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the ways stress can affect your oral and vision health. You may associate stress with lack of sleep and feeling overwhelmed, but two common physical symptoms of stress are associated with your oral health — jaw pain or clenching and teeth grinding. Stress can also affect your vision temporarily. Stress and Oral Health Here are 4 ways stress can affect your mouth: Gum disease or periodontal disease is a bacterial infection caused by inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. Warning signs include red and swollen gums, gums that pull away from your teeth and persistent bad breath. When you are under stress, your ability to fight off infections (like gum disease) is affected. Bruxism is the technical term for the condition of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw which can be caused by stress. Symptoms include headaches, tooth sensitivity and a sore jaw.  Canker sores are small ulcers in the mouth and may be caused by stress. The severity can vary. Also, if you chew on your tongue, cheeks or inside of your mouth, you could be susceptible to canker sores. Temporomandibular disorders, more easily referred to as TMD (or TMJ), are a range of conditions that affect the muscles and joints in your jaw and neck. Symptoms include jaw pain and soreness, clicking of the jaw and discomfort when you move your jaw up and down. Stress may cause or aggravate TMD.  Stress and Vision Health When you think about stress, you might not associate it with your eyes or vision. Here are some symptoms: Tunnel or blurry vision: Lose of peripheral vision and a slight blurriness can occur when your stress levels increase. Eye twitching: That annoying spasm occurring in your eye could be a sign of stress. Eye strain: Recently, we covered digital eye strain from prolonged time in front of a screen, but the stress occurring in your life can also cause eye strain and fatigue. Eye floaters: Spots and specks that float across your field of vision are not necessarily a cause for concern, but you may notice them during times of elevated stress. Solutions with a dental and vision focus While stress reduction methods like yoga, physical activity and breathing exercises have been abundantly endorsed, here are some recommendations specifically for your oral and vision health. From the perspective of your oral health, talk to your dentist if you have jaw pain or if you grind your teeth. You may not be aware that you grind your teeth at night, so a visit to the dentist could discover the problem and will prompt a discussion about possible treatments. During stressful situations, try to relax your face, neck and shoulders to avoid clenching your jaw. Avoid gum and tough foods that cause extra chewing and effort from your jaw. Practicing good oral hygiene and maintaining your regimen, even during the difficult times, will help prevent dental issues. Daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque buildup can help the fight against gum disease like gingivitis and periodontitis. And try not to turn to caffeine or sugar when you are feeling stressed. Both choices are detrimental to your oral health. From the perspective of vision health, if you continue to have some of these stress-related eye problems, be sure to visit your eye doctor. But since most stress-induced eye problems are temporary, find the most effective stress reducing tactics that work for you personally, and give yourself some time for the symptoms to subside and go away. Looking for more ways to alleviate stress, or more information on the ways stress affects your smile or eyes? You can find more articles like this on our website and more information from our oral health library.

#ikickbutts — Stand Against the Harmful Effects of Smoking on Teeth and Eyes

by MikeMeehan 3/15/2017 11:02 AM

Set cups in a schoolyard fence. Host an online training course. Chalk statistics onto a sidewalk. These are some of the activities suggested for National Kick Butts Day. The day seeks to empower youth to stand against tobacco use by participating in activism at their high school or college. In addition to the activism of this day, we’d like to draw attention to what might not be as common knowledge: the harmful effects tobacco and smoking have on the mouth and eyes. 7 Ways Tobacco Products Can Hurt the Mouth Tobacco products can hurt your mouth in a handful of ways. They can lead to: Bad breath. Nicotine inhibits the body’s ability to produce saliva, and a dry mouth can cause bad breath. Yellowed teeth. The two main culprits that yellow teeth in tobacco products are nicotine and tar. Even though nicotine is colorless, it turns yellow when exposed to oxygen. Gum disease. Nicotine deprives the gums of nutrients and oxygen, which can cause gums to recede. In some cases, tobacco users also experience bleeding or swollen gums. But that’s not it. According to the American Dental Association, the impact of tobacco products on your mouth also includes: Stained tongue Dulled sense of taste and smell Slow healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery Difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems Tobacco products can also lead to oral cancer. Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Important The Delta Dental Plans Association has released studies showing smokers are six times as likely to develop oral cancer as nonsmokers. Delta Dental follows the recommendations of The American Cancer Society — that your dentist or primary care doctor check your mouth and throat for oral cancer as part of a routine checkup. The process for screening is simple. Your dentist looks in your mouth for early signs of cancer. Tell your dentist about any swelling, sores, or discoloring around your mouth, lips, or throat. Screening is important for the following reasons: Close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. According to the foundation, oral cancer will cause close to 10,000 deaths in the U.S. On average, only 60 percent of those with the disease will live more than five years after being diagnosed, according to the Delta Dental Plans Association. By quitting tobacco use, smokers can cut their risk in half in just five years. After 10 years, former smokers have the same risk as people who never used tobacco. 6 Ways Tobacco Products Can Harm the Eyes Not only do tobacco products affect teeth, they can affect eyesight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the greatest threats are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, which affects your ability to focus. According to the New York State Department of Health, heavy smokers (15 cigarettes a day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataract as nonsmokers. Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD). AMD causes loss in the center of field of vision. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers, according to the New York State Department of Health. Smoking also increases the risk for: Glaucoma Diabetic retinopathy Uveitis (an inflammation of the part of the eye called the uvea) Dry eye syndrome (a condition in which a person either doesn’t produce enough tears or produces tears that evaporate too quickly) Never Too Late to Quit Nobody wants a discolored smile or to see the world through blurry lenses. If you are using tobacco, it’s not too late to quit today. By quitting, you can prevent gum disease and/or improve the condition of your gums, as well as lower your chances of eye disease. Tomorrow is National Kick Butts Day. Many high schools, college campuses and other organizations around the nation will participate. You can participate by using the hashtag #ikickbutts.  

How to Save Your Vision with the Right Eye Care Routine

by MikeMeehan 3/9/2017 9:36 AM

Did you know your eyes can detect about 10 million unique colors? Or that your eyeballs stay the same size from birth to death? Or that they’re composed of more than 2 million working parts? As fascinating as they are, your eyes can sometimes be compromised. Of course, some things are outside of your control: As you get older, parts of your body begin to wear down. Family history or genetics might also play a role. When it comes to saving your vision, though, you have options and opportunities to improve your outlook. 2 Common Eye Diseases and 3 Simple Ways to Save Your Vision from Them First, let’s consider some of the most common vision ailments - cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. More than 200,000 cases are reported for each in the U.S. each year. 1. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which affects your ability to focus. 2. Age-related macular degeneration is brought on by age, and mostly affects those who are 60 or older. It causes loss in the center of field of vision. Two types include dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. With dry, the center of the retina deteriorates. With wet, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina. A few ways to save your vision include: 1. Wear UV-protection glasses. You can lessen your chances of cataracts by wearing glasses that protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light. Not only does this apply to UV light from the sun, but also to blue light from computer screens and other electronic devices. 2. Eat a healthy diet. Diets containing vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. 3. Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase chances of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. You’ll also want to schedule a regular comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Why Regular Eye Exams Are Important During a regular eye exam, your eye doctor checks for common eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Whereas cataracts can be treated, age-related macular degeneration can’t be cured, though treatment can help. The earlier it can be detected, the better. But your eye doctor does more than just detect for those two diseases. Some of the benefits of regular eye exams include: 1. Your eye doctor can make sure everything’s in working order. Your eye doctor might look at how your eyes work together, how well you can make out objects near or far from you and how well your eyes can focus. 2. Your doctor can monitor eye changes. A once-a-year visit can detect small changes in your eyes. This can prevent eye problems before they become major issues. 3. Your doctor can also monitor your children’s eyes. Your children may not be aware what 20/20 vision looks like. Consequently, they might not report any issues with seeing. Your eye doctor can diagnose their vision problems before those problems begin to interfere with important aspects of their life, like school performance. Take Control of Your Vision Today March is National Save Your Vision Month, a designation from the American Optometric Association. This year, the organization is promoting awareness around digital eye strain and the importance of receiving regular, comprehensive eye exams from a doctor of optometry. Your eyes are a window to the world, and your vision is precious. By practicing a good eye care routine and scheduling an appointment with your eye doctor once a year, you can expect to maintain your good vision!

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