Dr. Michael Huang, DDS
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Is Stress Stealing Your Healthy Smile?

January 12, 2016
Posted By: Michael Huang
rush hour traffic gridiron

You’re stuck in the gridiron of rush hour traffic and late for a meeting, when your phone rings and you spill your coffee. We all have stress, some more than others. Some stress is good, but too much can cause serious issues with your physical health, including the health of your mouth.

Dr. Huang and our team want to partner with you to maximize your oral health, so you can enjoy healthy teeth and a gorgeous smile for life. Call our Covina, CA dental office now to schedule an appointment.

Symptoms of Too Much Stress

As it relates to dentistry, the following symptoms can indicate too much stress in your life.

  • Teeth grinding, clenching (bruxism): We sometimes say that a person who’s feeling frustrated or stressed has a tense jaw. This isn’t just a common phrase, it’s a reality. Often, times of stress cause humans to tighten facial muscles, which places tension on the large jaw muscles. When muscles are held tense for a long period, they become overworked. As a result, they twitch at night. Many people who grind and clench their teeth do so while sleeping, and the bedmate is the first to notice. A dentist can also notice a teeth grinding habit, evidenced by tooth wear and cracks on molars. Treatment: Ask about a custom night guard to prevent bruxism.
  • Headaches: Though a headache can stem from many causes, it may be caused by teeth grinding or TMJ disorder. One symptom of nighttime teeth grinding is a headache upon waking. TMJ disorder, with or without bruxism, can also result in headaches. Treatment: Ask about a custom mouth guard to prevent bruxism and treat TMJ disorder.
  • Gum disease: Too much stress increases the body’s risk for developing infection. Over half of all Americans experience gum disease in some form, during a lifetime. This condition heightens the potential for diabetes complications, low-weight births, heart attack, stroke, lung conditions, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies are being conducted to determine whether gum disease is also linked to cancer. We know that it is the main cause of adult tooth loss in our nation, and advanced cases lead to jawbone deterioration. Treatment: Gum disease can be treated with a deep cleaning and topical antibiotics, in mild to moderate cases. Advanced cases require surgical treatment by a periodontist.
  • Canker sores: Mouth ulcers inside the mouth are called canker sores. While they are not contagious, canker sores can be quite painful. They may develop due to biting or chewing on the inside of the mouth, or as a result of stress. Treatment: Rinse with warm salt water. If the condition continues, ask about special medication.
  • Dry mouth: Studies show that anxiety, often brought on by stress, can lead to dry mouth. This condition is also called xerostomia, and it increases a person’s risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Treatment: Drink plenty of water; chew gum with xylitol. In recurring cases, ask the doctor about artificial saliva.
  • Burning mouth syndrome: BMJ has no known cause in many cases, but it can cause a hot or burning sensation inside the mouth. Pain ranges from mild to severe. Treatment: Drink cold water or suck on ice (do not chew ice). Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and acidic or spicy foods and drinks. You can rinse with benzydamine, an over-the-counter mouthwash with desensitizing properties.
  • TMJ disorder: When the two joints that hold the mandible to the temporal bone are not properly seated, TMJ disorder may result. Clenching the jaw during the day or grinding teeth at night can lead to TMJ disorder. Symptoms include pain in the jaw, mouth, face, head, and/or neck. Commonly, patients endure a popping jaw, chronic earaches or ringing ears, and/or headaches. Treatment: TMJ disorder has many potential causes, but effective treatment often involves use of a custom-fitted mouth guard to be worn during sleep. If malocclusion exists, orthodontics or equilibration of the bite may be in order.
  • Lax oral hygiene: Often, stressed people neglect important routine tasks, such as effective daily brushing and flossing. Lax oral hygiene can contribute to gum disease, cavities, and other oral infections. Treatment: If you’ve not properly cared for your teeth, get back on track with a checkup and cleaning. Dr. Huang or one of our hygienists can refresh your home hygiene skills and recommend products to deter bacteria.

How to Counteract Stress

Effective stress management for you may not look like anyone else’s. Some people relieve stress by running, practicing yoga, or dancing, while others prefer massage, reading a book, or going to the symphony. Pets, music, and nature sounds can relieve stress, as does counting to ten with your eyes closed while taking deep, purposeful breaths. Sometimes, stress can be reduced by spending time outdoors. In some cases, venting your frustrations to a friend or in a blog will relieve pent up stress and frustration. You may need to cut something or someone out of your life, either by reduction or elimination.

Just remember, when stress negatively effects your health, it’s time for a change.

Call Us Today

If you’ve noticed symptoms of any conditions mentioned in this post, or you’ve witnessed a change in your oral health, call today to reserve a checkup and cleaning or consultation with Dr. Huang. Our Covina, CA dental office is accepting new patients now. 

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