We are a nation of strong people… pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stiff upper lip kinds of people. However, this last year of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll. We are all aware of the symptoms of Covid and vigilantly monitor ourselves for them. We know about wearing masks, washing hands and keeping our distance from others. While not everyone has had Covid, there is one thing we have all been afflicted with: STRESS!
Stress responses in our bodies are meant to prepare us for fight or flight when danger arises. The hormones cortisol and adrenaline flood the body, heart rate increases, and muscles get increased blood flow to help attack the threat at hand. When the threat has passed, bodily reactions go back to normal.
What happens when the cause of the stress doesn’t subside? We slide into a state of chronic stress with all its accompanying issues:
Insomnia, anyone? There are many reasons for insomnia but leading that list is stress. When your mind is amped up with worrisome thoughts that you can’t seem to turn off, it’s hard to get to sleep and if you do sleep, it’s difficult to stay asleep. Humans need the restorative properties that good, deep sleep brings so if you don’t sleep well, whatever is stressing you will still be there along with the negative effects of not sleeping. It’s a vicious cycle.
Three cheers for gut health! But if you have runaway, constant stress, your digestive system may be paying the price. Your liver produces extra sugar to provide energy when stress Is present, but if the stress continues, the body may not be able to process the extra glucose. This puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Heartburn and acid reflux can become a problem with constant stress because of the increase in stomach acid. It also wreaks havoc on your digestive system bringing about constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, all of which certainly don’t help when you’re already under stress.
The body’s very important immune system was designed to respond to stress but not for prolonged stressful states. The stress hormones will eventually wear down your immune system thus making you more susceptible to viral illnesses like colds and flu, and even seems to exacerbate any allergies you may have.
But while we have been concentrating on all those things, we may be overlooking others. Stress from the pandemic situation has highlighted how general health is affected by Top McKinney Orthodontics oral health and the toll it may be taking in our mouths!
The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute reports an increase in teeth grinding and clenching (up 71%), chipped teeth (up 63%), cracked teeth (up 63%) and joint pain in the jaw, commonly known as TMJ (up 62%). Many people report feeling stress in their shoulders or neck while not even considering the effects of a clenched jaw.
Dentists and Orthodontists have definitely noticed an increased prevalence in these stress-related mouth conditions.
Clenching or grinding teeth typically happens when you’re asleep so you may not realize you are doing it. If you wake up with a sore jaw, or notice changes in your teeth such as worn areas or teeth becoming sensitive to hot and cold, it may be the result of clenching or grinding.
These clenching and grinding behaviors obviously affect teeth and jaws but can also cause headaches, and really, who needs more headaches?! The pressure from the clenching travels to other parts of the skull and a tension headache or migraine ensues.
Sometimes the headache may feel like it is worse on one side of the head than the other because jaw-clenching may be worse on that side. Your Top McKinney Orthodontics may be able to help by providing a night guard to wear on your teeth to help lessen the effects of this condition.
Stress has also been shown to decrease the mouth’s production of saliva resulting in dry mouth. Unfortunately, this can increase the risk of developing cavities because the mouth being dry allows bacteria to build up on teeth. This is another reason why seeing your dentist regularly (2 times per year) for checkups is so important.
Whereas prolonged stress responses can weaken the body’s immune system, it can also allow harmful bacteria into the bloodstream through gums that are inflamed and unable to fight off the bacteria. Gum disease exacerbated by stress can cause a loosening of teeth at the roots by damaging the bone, which could cause tooth loss. This condition is called periodontal disease.
Have you ever had one of those little white sores in your mouth that hurt like crazy? Those are canker sores. Top McKinney Orthodontics don’t know exactly what causes them but we do know that they seem to appear during times of stress. Anyone who has had a canker sore knows that it feels like an eternity before they go away, which could take up to 10 days. Your dental professional can recommend a special mouth rinse to aid healing of these sores.
Those who deal with cold sores know that periods of stress can bring about the appearance of a cold sore. The herpes simplex virus that causes these sores is contagious Top McKinney Orthodontics professionals or pharmacists can help recommend a medication to help with these cold sores. The healing of a cold sore, like a canker sore, can take up to 10 days.
During the pandemic, it may have been difficult to continue with professional Top McKinney Orthodontics oral care and cleanings. It is even more important during this time to practice good oral hygiene at home and get back to regular cleanings and exams as soon as it is feasible.
As our nation works through the pandemic, dental health professionals can help with “oral stress”. An orthodontist can help with straightening teeth that are being damaged or are culprits for causing us to grind at night. Invisalign and Braces are great options for straightening, and custom mouth guards are effective to help prevent damage to teeth from grinding and clenching. If damage has already occurred, see Top McKinney Orthodontics for recommendations on repairs to the teeth or jaws. Let Smiles Hollywood Orthodontics help your mouth get through this pandemic.
Call us today at (972) 529-9700 or visit us online at SmilesHollywood.com to book your appointment!