Managing Stress Levels To Help Protect Your Teeth

Tooth damage caused by bruxism and poor diet

tooth painStress levels appear to be rising across the UK and perhaps it’s not surprising. Firstly there was the stress associated with potentially catching Covid-19, followed by the anxiety associated with being in lockdown for weeks on end. Finally, just at the time when things seem to be improving slightly, some are reporting concern at being encouraged to return to work in an environment in which they don’t feel entirely safe.

Perhaps anxiety is inevitable at times like these, but it remains a fact that stress can have a negative effect on our overall health and also on our teeth and gums.  In today’s Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic blog, we will take a look at two ways in which stress can affect our mouth health as well as offering some suggestions to help alleviate it.

How does stress affect our oral health?

There are two main ways in which our anxiety can be harmful to our teeth and gums. The first of this is Bruxism, or teeth grinding.

Although we may have seen characters do this in cartoons when something untoward happens, the reality is that for most of us, any teeth grinding tends to happen when we are asleep. This makes it very difficult to prevent, although mouth guards may be helpful in some cases. Grinding our teeth together for any length of time will inevitably have consequences and in more extreme cases, the teeth may even break or fracture. This is perhaps more likely where teeth have been previously weakened through damage or decay. Although this is dramatic, it is relatively rare and most of us who grind our teeth will suffer mainly from progressive enamel erosion.

As we grind our teeth together, the friction will slowly wear away the enamel layer of our teeth which helps to protect them from decay. Other problems associated with worn enamel include sensitive teeth and even root canal problems. There are options to restore teeth that have suffered in this way, such as crowns or dental veneers, but it is generally advisable that this is done when the patient has managed to stop grinding their teeth together.

The second way in which our teeth and gums can be harmed due to stress is when we let our diet slip and start to eat foods that are less ‘friendly’ for our mouths.

Most of us will probably admit to eating less than healthily when we are feeling under pressure. The chances are that we will start eating a lot more ’comfort foods’ including those that are high in sugar levels such as biscuits and sweets. In addition to this, we are likely to consume these products over a period of time, not allowing our saliva time to wash away much of the sugar. This ‘grazing’ method of eating is not good for our teeth even with healthier food, but with foods high in sugar, it greatly increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Reducing stress levels

It might be easier said than done to reduce your stress and anxiety, but there are a few things that are worth trying. Everybody is different and there may be some trial and error in finding a method that works for you. The following are some suggestions that we think are worth trying.

Exercise – Especially where you can safely exercise in the fresh air,  this will help you to feel more relaxed. Helping oxygen to flow more freely along with a change of scenery, where practical, can be very beneficial.

Relaxation/meditation – Sometimes we just need to stop the whirlwind of (often negative) thoughts that whir around our brain. A simple meditation or even breathing exercises can help to calm our minds and see things more clearly.

Spoil yourself occasionally – Something that we enjoy and is relaxing can do us a world of good. For example, a nice warm bath with relaxing music. Take some time for yourself and enjoy it.

Plan an activity – One problem with lockdown is that we have too much time to think. If you enjoy painting, writing, dancing or any activity at all, try to do more of this even if you don’t feel motivated. The chances are that you will start to enjoy it whilst taking your mind off things that you find stressful.

You will probably have seen on the news that attempts are being made to slowly return things to some semblance of normality. Naturally, this may take a little time. At the moment, we have no news on when dental practices can open again in the UK and we will be sure to let you know when we have that information.

In the meantime, we remain open for telephone advice only. Our Canterbury patients can call the Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic on 01227 463529 where they will be able to receive advice on how to care for any minor dental issues and also what to do where urgent dental treatment is required.

Hopefully, we will be able to see you all again soon, but in the meantime, please take care to stay safe!