Posts for: April, 2022
We're all quite familiar with the impact chronic stress can have on our minds and emotions. But stress can also take a toll on physical well-being, even basic physiology like pulse rate and blood pressure. It might also surprise you to know that stress could play a role in some dental problems.
April is Stress Awareness Month, an opportunity to look afresh at this unsettling problem that afflicts many in modern life. As dental care professionals, we focus on how stress could affect your teeth and what you can do to minimize that effect.
Stress is any physical or mental strain in response to a danger or peril in life. It can be a good thing, as the sudden stress a hiker feels upon meeting a bear in the woods, which can focus the mind to take life-saving action. And if expertly harnessed, the "butterflies" a musician feels right before a concert may also serve to improve their performance.
Stress becomes problematic, though, when it morphs into a chronic response to life in general. Besides health problems akin to those we've previously mentioned, chronic stress can give rise to nervous behaviors like fidgeting, smoking or binge eating.
Stress may also give rise to behaviors we don't even realize we're doing—and one such involuntary habit could impact your dental health. Teeth grinding is the gnashing or grinding of teeth together, or mindlessly chewing on a hard object like a pencil.
Although quite common and less concerning in children, it's another matter when it occurs in adulthood. The habit can accelerate the normal teeth wearing that accompanies aging. Abnormally high biting forces generated by grinding can also cause teeth weakened by disease to loosen or fracture.
There are ways to reduce the effects of grinding, like wearing a protective mouthguard or having your teeth altered to reduce the biting forces the habit can generate. But addressing the chronic stress underlying teeth grinding through the following ways could help reduce its frequency and occurrence.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Eating a nutritiously-balanced diet, exercising and getting enough quality sleep can help reduce stress.
Avoid drugs or alcohol: These mood-altering substances may help someone cope with stress, but they don't address the underlying issue, and they can create additional physical and emotional issues for the user.
Pursue relaxation: Meditation, biofeedback therapy or even pursuing a favorite hobby could help you better manage your response to life issues causing you stress.
Seek others' help: Sharing your life struggles with trusted friends, family, professionals, or therapy groups can help greatly reduce your experience of stress.
Reducing chronic stress will certainly improve your overall well-being. If you suffer from teeth grinding, it may also do wonders for your oral health.
Gum disease's impact goes well beyond your teeth and gums—other aspects of your health can suffer too. Here's why.
Gum disease targets the gums, connective tissues and bone that support the teeth. These bacterial infections arise mainly from dental plaque, a thin biofilm that builds up on tooth surfaces. The risk is higher if you're not adequately cleaning your teeth of dental plaque every day with brushing and flossing.
As the infection ravages through your periodontal structures, you could eventually lose affected teeth. But two important aspects of gum disease also increase the risk of harm to other parts of your body.
For one, gum infections contain high levels of harmful bacteria and toxins. As periodontal tissues break down, these toxins can enter the bloodstream and spread infection to other parts of the body.
In the second aspect, inflammation normally occurs in diseased gum tissues in response to the infection. Although a crucial part of the body's defense mechanism, inflammation that becomes chronic (as it often does with gum disease) can itself become harmful.
Some research seems to show that gum inflammation might also influence other inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or arthritis to make them worse. Conversely, these conditions could also elevate your risk for a serious gum infection.
Gum disease can also affect pregnancy, and vice-versa. Because of hormonal changes, pregnant women have a higher risk for developing gum infections. And an active gum infection and its associated bacterial load could likewise affect the overall health of both mother and unborn child.
In light of its potential impact on your whole body and not just your mouth, it's prudent to prevent gum disease or promptly treat it should it occur. As previously mentioned, daily oral hygiene is foundational to dental disease prevention, with regular dental cleanings and checkups further reducing your risk of infection.
You should also watch for signs of infection, including swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, make a dental appointment as soon as possible. The earlier we can identify gum disease and begin treatment, the less damage it will cause your gums—and the rest of your health.
If you would like more information on how your oral health can impact your well-being, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
Alcoholic beverages are interwoven within many cultures across the globe, but this "social lubricant" also has a dark side. Alcohol can become an overwhelming, addictive substance that wrecks relationships and careers, not to mention physical health. In regard to the latter, the teeth, mouth and gums aren't immune.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Throughout the month, healthcare providers, including dentists, highlight the damage heavy alcohol consumption can wrought on physical, emotional and social health. Abstaining or bringing alcohol consumption within recommended limits can improve your life—and your oral health.
While the effects of too much alcohol on general health are well known, it's easy to overlook its connection with dental disease, but it does exist for a number of reasons.
First, many alcoholic beverages and mixers contain high amounts of sugar. Harmful bacteria living in dental plaque, a thin film on tooth surfaces, feed on sugar. The bacteria are then able to multiply, which, increases your chances for gum disease, one of the leading causes of tooth loss.
Many alcoholic drinks also contain high amounts of acid. That, coupled with the acid produced by bacteria, can soften and erode tooth enamel, leading to unpleasant outcomes like increased tooth sensitivity or tooth decay. Like gum disease, advanced tooth decay can also cause tooth loss.
Alcohol consumption also causes dehydration, which in turn can have an effect on the mouth: With less water available, the salivary glands produce less saliva. Because saliva helps neutralize oral acid and fights pathogens leading to dental disease, having less of it available can make your mouth more susceptible to disease and infection.
To avoid these unfortunate consequences, it's important to either forgo drinking alcohol or keep your consumption within moderate limits. Those limits for you individually may depend on things like your age, weight, genetic background and overall health. Generally, though, U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 1 serving of alcohol (akin to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits) per day for women and two for men.
If you're a drinker, you should also look out for your oral health in other ways. Brush and floss your teeth daily to remove harmful dental plaque, and eat a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in vitamins and minerals. You should visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and checkups.
Regardless of your relationship to alcohol, it's a part of life you should take seriously. Drinking responsibly not only protects you and others around you, but it can also protect your dental health.
If you would like more information about alcohol and dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”