Stress Related Dental Problems

With anxiety levels higher in difficult times, your Addlestone dental team looks at how to prevent damaging our teeth

Head and jaw painAlthough it appears that we are slowly and cautiously relaxing some of the measures around ‘lockdown’, it is likely that some restrictions will continue for some time yet. We are also seeing a reduction in the number of daily infections although there are still too many of course.

The whole lockdown period will have affected people in different ways. For some, it may have been little more than a break from normal life, whilst for others, it will have proved to be very challenging indeed and it is widely agreed that levels of stress at this time have been much higher.

Whilst we know that factors such as a poor diet and poor teeth cleaning can lead to dental problems, it is perhaps less well understood that stress can also play a significant role. In today’s Synergy Clinic blog, we will take a look at some of the damage that stress can cause.

Bruxism

When we are stressed, some of us will grind our teeth, usually while we are asleep.  It is this factor that makes it so difficult to control. Whilst most of us probably do this on the odd occasion after a very stressful day; for those who do this on a regular basis, the damage caused can be quite significant. The most dramatic damage that can be caused through this action is when a tooth breaks or fractures. This usually only occurs where the grinding is very severe and also usually on teeth that have already been weakened.

More commonly, tooth grinding, or bruxism, causes gradual erosion on the enamel of our teeth as we grind them together. This enamel is the protective layer which helps to ward off bacteria from the more vulnerable inner parts of our teeth. As the enamel becomes worn through grinding, the inner part becomes more exposed and problems such as decay, sensitivity and even root canal issues can occur.

Although there are restorations available to restore any damage done, such as crowns and veneers, it is best to use these once the patient has managed to reduce their stress levels and have stopped grinding their teeth.

Comfort eating

When we are feeling stressed or anxious, how many of us can honestly say that we reach for the salad bowl? Probably very few of us we suspect. When we feel like this we are much more likely to want to eat foods that are bad for us and that are high not only in fats, but also in sugar. It is no secret that sugar is very harmful for our teeth and adding to the amount that we eat is likely to lead to tooth decay if done over a period of time.

We are probably also more likely to ‘graze’; eating sweets etc over a longer period of time and thereby leaving little time in between for our saliva to wash most of the sugars away. We can’t over emphasise the importance of a good teeth cleaning regime, including flossing, if you are prone to reach for the sweets more at this time.

Easing stress

What can we do to reduce our stress levels at the moment? Well, firstly, it is worth bearing in mind that things do seem to be heading in the right direction at least. Whilst we still need to be very vigilant, the risk of catching coronavirus appears to be diminishing. There are also practical steps that you can take to help you to relax. You may have to try a few of these to find out what works for you, but as time is something that some of us have quite a lot of now, why not use it to find ways to relax more? The following are just a few suggestions.

Breathing – This is one of the easiest ones to do. When we are stressed, we tend to hold our breath and not breathe in an easy manner. Try sitting quietly and listen to your breathing until it feels relaxed and continue for a few minutes.

Exercise – Exercise is well known to help reduce stress. Whilst there are still some restrictions on what we can do, most of us will be able to go for a walk, or jog, at least. Remember, of course, to maintain the 2 metres social distancing at all times.

Meditation/mindfulness – There are numerous videos available that can help you to meditate. This can be an effective way of reducing your stress levels in a gentle and reassuring manner.

Be kind to yourself – Set aside some time each day to ‘pamper’ yourself. This could be a warm bath with relaxing music or simply sat on the sofa with your favourite film. The point is to do something that YOU enjoy and make that a time for yourself.

With the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, we hope that we will have some news for you in the not too far off future about the reopening of our Addlestone dental practice.  In the meantime, please call us only in the case of a dental emergency. You can contact the Synergy Clinic for emergency assistance on 01932 856541 where one of our team will take your call.