Extra sweets aren’t the only thing that has dental professionals cringing over the holiday season. Holiday stressors like travel, visitors, money, or just feeling too busy can all have a negative impact on your teeth.
How does stress affect oral health?
Actually, many oral health problems have been linked to high levels of stress. The most obvious might be bruxism, or tooth grinding, which occurs at night when you think you’re resting. Jaw clenching is another similar problem– have you ever noticed during a busy day that you’re holding your jaw really tightly? Both bruxism and jaw clenching wear down your teeth over time, weaken tooth roots, and can cause gum recession.
Stress hormones also take a toll on oral health. When you are feeling anxious, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in, releasing a hormone cortisol. This is a great hormone for dealing with a serious situation– like a zombie attack or the need to lift up a freight train single-handedly– but cortisol doesn’t help very much on the day-to-day level. In fact, researchers believe it may contribute gum disease (in addition to high blood pressure and a host of other systemic health problems).
Additionally, stress can lead to unhealthy choices like tobacco use or high levels of alcohol ingestion. When we feel worn down from a long stressful day, filled with anxiety, we are less likely to do a proper job of cleaning our teeth by brushing and flossing– and we may be tempted to skip it all together!
Stay stress-free with these tips from your SW Portland dental clinic
Eat for health
A balanced diet supports oral health and is an essential element in preventive dental care. Filling up on Christmas cookies or chocolate Hanukkah gelt everyday not only increases stress hormones, it just isn’t supporting your body the way you need. Stick to three healthy meals a day, and save the sweets for a modest dessert.
During busy times, like the holidays, it’s easy to forget to make time for exercise– but your daily jog or yoga session is critical, and not just in fighting off extra cookie calories. When you exercise for 20 minutes, your body releases more serotonin— the “feel-good” hormone– in the brain. Serotonin reduces stress and creates a feeling of wellbeing.
Keep up on health
Brushing, flossing, and making sure that you’re up-to-date on your next appointment with your SW Portland dental clinic are all things that cannot wait– no matter how busy you are. Make time for self care and brush and floss twice daily– this is especially important with all the extra sweets around!