Whether you’re a boss babe in the boardroom or are running for MVP of the PTA, chances are high you face more than your fair share of stress in a day. The demands of your career, the needs of your family and finding time for yourself can seem impossible to navigate all at once.
The link between stress and declining general health is clear, but you might not realize that anxiety and chaos in your life aren’t just giving you fewer reasons to smile: stress might also be ruining your teeth.
Stress, Sleep and Your Teeth
Stress and sleep problems go hand in hand. Whether you’re tossing and turning because you’re worrying about tomorrow or staying up pondering life’s problems, your smile is going to suffer. And If you’re not sleeping well, you might also be grinding your teeth at night. The desire to clench your teeth when stress sets in is easier to control when you’re awake, but during sleep you’re powerless to stop it. Your dentist may be able to help with a night guard or other solutions.
But stress’s sleep woes don’t end at painful clenching: stress can contribute to or lead to a worsening of sleep apnea. When you’re stressed, you produce more cortisol — the hormone that allows your body to process stress — than usual. And if you currently suffer from sleep apnea, your cortisol levels are likely already elevated from the poor quality sleep you do get. Lack of sleep leading to stress leading to lack of sleep is a vicious cycle that can be impossible to break without the help of a professional.
More than that, sleep apnea encourages a dry mouth and excess bacteria that could contribute to everything from bad breath to gum disease — necessitating more worry and more time taken out of your busy schedule to deal with the problem.
But the toll doesn’t stop there. The less quality sleep you get, the more likely you are to let your normal dental routine lapse. You might start wondering who needs to floss before bed when that extra five minutes of shut eye would feel so good or what it hurts to postpone your morning brushing until after the kids are off to school — except your morning got so hectic you forgot?
Other Impacts of Stress On Your Teeth
Unfortunately, sleep isn’t the only thing that suffers when you’re stressed. During times of anxiety and worry, you’re more likely to reach for comfort foods. Sicky, starchy, sugary foods and easy prep meals and snacks that fit into your busy schedule might taste great, but they spell disaster for your oral hygiene. These fast fix foods and sweet treats that lessen feelings of anxiety stick to teeth and provide fuel for bacteria to grow out of control.
Acidic beverages that keep you up and running like coffee, tea or energy drinks only add to your oral woes and can also stain your teeth. A nightly glass of wine to unwind can act similarly. Not only does stress lead to structural problems that your dentist must fix, but you’ll also end up with a hefty tooth whitening bill to boot.
Minimizing the Impact of Stress
Minimizing the damage stress does to your smile means accomplishing the seemingly impossible: taking time out of your busy day to see to your own needs. The same steps recommended to lessen the impact of stress on your overall health also work to protect your smile from the ravages of worry.
Keep yourself hydrated, make healthy food choices and sneak in extra activity to get a better night’s sleep. You’ll also want to slow down and make time for self care. And what exactly is that?
While magazines and pop culture gurus tout the benefits of self care in the form of facials and massages, the simple act of seeing to your dental health needs can become a soothing and essential part of your self care routine. Making flossing, brushing and rinsing a time for mindfulness — to slow down and be at ease in your thoughts — fulfills your need for calm AND ensures your teeth stay in tip top condition.
But if you’re seeing and feeling the effects of stress in your mouth, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your dentist today.
Reversing the Damage of Stress on Your Mouth
At the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur, we know stress can be a huge problem, but there’s hope for tooth grinding, apnea and their longer term effects We can help with that, as well as your cosmetic dentistry needs, often completing procedures the same day! When your smile needs perfecting, but your time is limited, give us a call at 201-560-0606 or email us here and we’ll get you fast-tracked back to eye-catching confidence.
We heard your selfies could be a lot better, so we wrote a “How to Take a Great Selfie” guide to help you show off our great handywork. It’ll be our little secret! You don’t have to tell anyone that your dentist helped you perfect those iconic social media images.
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