Jonathan Bowen

Jonathan Bowen

How oral health and stress don’t play well together (and how you can help)

April is designated as Stress Awareness month, and it goes without saying that 2020 has been a year for the history books when it comes to learning how to manage stress and adjusting to a drastically different routine. But what your patients may not know is that a heightened level of stress can be affecting their oral health. We’ll talk about how, and also give you solutions to pass along to your patients on how to get back on track. 

How does stress affect oral health?

The link between stress and oral health is well established. Not only is it incredibly taxing on the body, it can lead to dangerous inflammation levels that directly affect teeth. Adherence to personal hygiene can also take a toll when we’re under pressure, making gum disease development more likely. 

Couple that with the fact that for the majority of people it’s been nothing short of impossible to see a dentist in the last year, leading to delayed or deferred treatments. Add the stress of a multitude of circumstances and painful physical symptoms may not only develop, but become increasingly worse. Once our bodies recognize that we’re under duress, it will try to compensate by introducing an inflammatory response that can worsen symptoms. 

Symptoms and solutions to stress related oral health problems

Even if your patients have been dedicated to keeping a healthy teeth cleaning regimen, long term psychological pressure can manifest into debilitating discomfort:

  • Excessive grinding or clenching (bruxism), leading to soreness or tooth sensitivity
  • Tooth and jaw pain due to chronic inflammation
  • Canker sores or lesions
  • Chronic dry mouth (xerostomia)

It’s important to address these concerns with patients while educating them on the fundamental habits that keep these preventable oral health problems at bay:

  • Always brush and floss at least twice a day
  • Prioritize mental health as well as overall physical health
  • Visit the dentist to get a professional opinion
  • Drink plenty of water to increase saliva production and strengthen enamel

As dental professionals, we are fully aware that regular dental cleanings are essential to overall health, and may take for granted that everyone knows this important correlation. The hard truth is that our patients usually don’t understand this like we do, and will usually prioritize their oral health farther down the list. It is equally as important for you to understand the most common stressors for dental administrators, and how to manage them.

Go to www.visityourdentist.org for more research material on the links between oral health and overall health so you can help your patients prioritize their oral health the way that you do.

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