Holiday Stress and Oral Health

The Link Between Holiday Stress and Oral Health

Dr. Morse and the rest of our Team would like to wish you the Happiest of Holidays this season!  Yes, this time of year is upon us once again.  ‘Tis the season to be both merry about the parts of life that we are grateful for, as well as stressed out because of the “hussle and bussle” of the busy holiday season.  Many of us are committed to upcoming festivities, office parties, various holiday events, travel, and cooking in the kitchen for friends and family.  For those of us who avoid “black Friday” at any cost and procrastinate shopping until the last possible minute, we have some frantic visits to overcrowded malls to look forward to in the days ahead.  With this said, like many other individuals, you might be feeling a little stressed out right now; and as a result, your stress might be taking its toll on your oral health.

How does stress impact your oral health?  Your stress can be linked to canker sores, teeth grinding, TMJ from clinching, dry mouth, poor hygiene, and gum disease.  As stress persists and becomes chronic, your body produces the stress hormone in your body, called cortisol.  Now, the domino effect begins.  This cortisol weakens your immune system, and your weak immune system allows plaque’s harmful bacteria to invade your gums.  Because of this systemic response, the strong correlation between chronic stress and gum disease is an unfortunate reality.

Furthermore, the way that you cope with your stress might be further advancing poor oral health.   Two of the most common stress-coping mechanisms that plague us during the holidays are nighttime grinding or clinching as well as indulging on holiday candies, cookies, and sweets.  When we clinch or grind our teeth, we exert immense pressure between the teeth, and ultimately tooth enamel wears off and gums recede.  As for our overindulgence on holiday treats, the high sugar content creates a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth, and this bacteria produces the tooth decaying acid which causes cavities. 

How do you protect your oral health during the holidays?  Dr. Morse and Team recommend that you remember to take the following proactive steps this stressful time of year.

·         If you are experiencing jaw pain and/or tooth pain from clinching or grinding, you should protect yourself from its harmful long term effects, and make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. A night guard might be your best protection from this all too common coping mechanism.

·         With all of the yummy holiday sweets that surround us at our work and home, please remember to brush and floss after eating anything with sugar.  If you don’t already have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss at work, please remember to bring one tomorrow.  You can start making a positive difference today just by remembering this, especially during the holiday season. 

·         Lastly, remember to exercise regularly to cope better with your stress.  It sounds obvious; however, many individuals become too busy during the season and ignore self-care and daily exercise.  According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise is an excellent stress reliever because it boosts your feel good endorphins and distracts you from stressful thoughts.   Additionally, when you exercise and reduce your stress, you will sleep better too.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember not to neglect yourself this holiday season.  Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in the holidays, your commitments, your family, and your friends that you lose sight of what is really important….you and your health.  Don’t you want to be healthy enough to enjoy your favorite parts of the holidays many years to come?  If your answer is “YES”, then you want to make your oral care a top priority starting now.

 

 

“Stress and Oral Health.”  A Woman’s Health. 28 November 2012. <http://awomanshealth.com/stress-and-oral-health/>

“Tis the Season for Holiday Stress.” PR News Wire. 30 November 2010. <http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tis-the-season-for-holiday-stress-plackers-offers-tips-on-how-to-prevent-stress-from-causing-dental-problems-111028989.html>

Photo courtesy of momlogic.com

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