Stressing out this holiday season?

Holiday stress

While the holiday season is a time of excitement and cheer, seasonal activities, family visits and holiday shopping can also lead to a lot of pressure – which can affect your oral health. If you’re feeling tense or anxious, be on the lookout for signs of the following stress-related oral disorders.

Grinding or clenching teeth

“Bruxism” is the technical term for grinding teeth and clenching jaws. It can result from sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or teeth that are missing or crooked, but it is often caused by stress and anxiety. Signs of bruxism include flat tips of teeth, worn tooth enamel and tongue indentations. If you think you may have bruxism, visit your dentist for evaluation. He or she can help determine if you need a nighttime mouthguard or other treatment.

Jaw pain

Also referred to as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), jaw pain often occurs when jaw muscles are overused from clenching or grinding teeth, like with bruxism. But even if you aren’t experiencing flat teeth or other signs of bruxism, you may still experience other symptoms of TMJ, such as jaw joint pain or popping and clicking of your jaw. If you notice these symptoms, check with your dentist to see if TMJ may be the cause.

Gum disease

Emotional factors can play a significant role in the development and severity of adult gum (periodontal) disease. Stress caused by spousal conflict, children, lack of companionship, or work can have an impact on the health of your gums. The greatest risk for gum disease may be caused by financial pain and stress. The good news? Researchers found that those who deal with financial strain in an active and positive manner had no more risk of severe gum disease than those without money problems. If you’re concerned about the health of your gums, consult your dentist.

Canker sores

Sometimes called mouth ulcers, canker sores generally occur inside the mouth and are not contagious. They often are triggered by trauma – such as from biting your cheek, injuring your gums with a toothbrush or brushing too zealously – but they may also be triggered by stress. According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, students were more likely to develop canker sores during the school year, and less frequently during breaks and after graduation.

Maintaining your oral health when stressed

One of the best ways to fight the negative effects of stress is to remove the source of stress by avoiding stressful situations and opting out of activities when you feel over-committed.

Remember to practice good oral hygiene, especially when you’re stressed. You may be tempted to skip dental hygiene when you’re stressed, but taking care of your teeth can prevent health problems from getting worse. Remember to brush twice a day, floss every day and visit the dentist regularly.

And, try these tension-reducing tips:

  • Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of sleep
  • Get physical: Exercise (like yoga or jogging), massage and physical therapy may help
  • Share your feelings with a counselor or trusted family members and friends
  • Find time to relax and meditate

Still have concerns? Speak with your dentist.

Last updated: December 2016
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