Stressed? Your Dentist Can Help

Most people’s lives are stressful! We all encounter stress in our lives, to one extent or another. Most people are aware of its impact on our bodies -- it can lead to panic attacks and anxiety disorders and even at a lesser level lead to lack of sleep, irritability and difficulties focusing.

Most people however aren’t aware of its impact on our oral health. Sadly our mouths have just as much of a chance of being affected by stressful situations as our bodies and minds do. In honor of National Stress Awareness day April 16th, San Francisco Cosmetic, Restorative and Implant Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev DMD and his team decided to share some information that they gathered about how stress impacts our oral health.

Researchers have found a significant link between stress and oral health, helping us better understand what part anxiety and depression take in the development of dental problems. We now know that stress is a contributing factor to the following conditions:

Bruxism – Clenching and grinding of teeth can cause severe tooth and jaw damage. Bruxism is often easily managed through the use of a night guard (mouth guard) but since stress is one of the main factors associated with this condition, taking steps to reduce and relieve anxiety causing events should also be looked into. Cosmetic dentist Dr. Loev has found that teeth grinding and clenching can also lead to an individual appearing older than their actual years and is the cause for many of the smile makeovers he performs. “A youthful smile is one that is balanced with the anterior or front teeth appearing proportionally longer than those directly next to them. When people grind their teeth they often gradually or sometimes quite abruptly crack or break down teeth making them look smaller.”

Canker Sores – The cause of canker sores is unknown, but they are often brought on by stress. Canker sores while usually small and harmless can be quite painful

Dry Mouth – Most of us have experienced dry mouth at one point or another but when this condition persists due to illness, medication or even stress it can make chewing, eating, swallowing and even talking difficult.  Saliva helps control harmful germs in the mouth and helps to prevent tooth decay and other oral infections; when it’s lacking the mouth has a harder time keeping these conditions at bay. If you suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia) talk to you dentist or dental hygienist about it; they have some tips to help you.

Gum Disease (Periodontal disease)– According to Preston D. Miller Jr., DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, “Individuals with high stress levels tend to increase their bad habits, which can be harmful to periodontal health. They are less attentive to their oral hygiene and may increase their use of nicotine, alcohol, or drugs,” Numerous studies have also shown that long-term stress affects our immune systems, increasing our susceptibility to infections such as gum, periodontal disease. One Downtown San Francisco Dental Office is usually filled with sounds of laughter and happy people. “Every day new patients tell me that they are scared of the dentist and that is why it’s been so long since they’ve seen one” Says Dr. Loev. “We go out of our way to make going to the dentist as pleasurable, painless and easy as possible. We know that people are often apprehensive about seeing a dentist and therefore put it off until they actually develop a problem like gum disease or broken teeth and painful decay. We want to take the stress

TMJ/TMD – Contributing factors to temporomandibular joint disorders are many, trauma and tooth grinding (often associated with stress) are common causes of TMD. Emotional factors such as anxiety and depression which often have a cause and effect relationship with stress can also trigger symptoms of TMJ.  

More about Stress

The correlation between stress and oral health are fairly clear, but stress also takes indirect paths to affect your dental health. Stressed individuals often neglect their oral hygiene routines -- when you have too much going on, it's hard to remember to brush and floss correctly. Stress and poor diet go hand in hand too.  – Bad food choices such as sugary and carbohydrate-laden foods promote tooth decay and generally less-than-stellar health and are often easy choices and consumed more frequently when we are busy or depressed. -+

On the flip-side painful dental problems can increase our levels of stress and anxiety. Also, our ability to tolerate pain is compromised when our bodies are struggling to adapt to stressful events and situations. As a result, tooth pain can become exacerbated during times of stress.

Take a deep breath and De-Stress!

We know that when you are stressed the dentist is often one of the last places that you think of going.  Dr. Loev and the rest of our team hope that at least when you are in the office; that we have managed to create an environment in our 450 Sutter Street dental office of as little stress as possible and that you are able to relax (as much as is possible at the dentist). We hope that when not in our office you take the time to focus on yourself and your oral hygiene regimen, and don't use smoking or excessive alcohol to relieve stress. It sounds cliché but try and take measures to reduce stress in your life, such as eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. If you suffer from extreme anxiety or depression, don’t suffer alone seek professional help.

If you're worried that stress is affecting your teeth or gums, call us! 415-392-2072- We can treat many dental problems and dental pain caused by anxiety and offer suggestions for better dental care or just give your teeth a good professional dental cleaning so that they feel good and -make the rest of your body and smile feel healthy.  

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