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.

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.

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