How the Stress of COVID-19 May be Affecting Your Oral Health
The emotional toll, our global pandemic has taken on the healthcare workers on the frontlines in Spain and Italy has set in, and overwhelming fatigue and fear are taking the place of the initial adrenaline rush that had kept the medical teams pushing forward. Experts say that the adrenaline factor can only sustain itself for a month at the most, and then physical and mental exhaustion take over. If you’re on the frontlines here in the Los Angeles area, thank you. We cannot adequately express the deep level of gratitude and respect we have for each one of you.
There are several ways stress and trauma can affect our oral health, and we hope the tips we provide here can be used as a tool to keep you comfortable and your oral health under control. For most of us who are not on the frontlines, we are still under an unusually high level of stress. If you’ve developed new bad habits or physical oral reactions that you don’t typically experience, they could be a result of the stress you’ve been under.
Effects of Stress on Oral Health
Be on the lookout for newly developed bad habits or habits you’d thought you’d once kicked but that have resurfaced. Unhealthy patterns are often stress-related. Likewise, our bodies and mouths can respond negatively to stress. Read on for natural oral reactions to stress that you can likely control with a little guidance.
Biting nails is a common response to stress. What makes this bad habit harmful to your oral health? The pressure from biting can move your teeth out of position. And the viruses and bacteria from your hands added to the germs already present in your mouth can lead to infections. In fact, recent studies have suggested that touching your face during our current crisis heightens the risk of infecting yourself.
Another habit that tends to develop subconsciously during stressful times is teeth grinding when you sleep. How does it harm your oral health? In addition to making your jaw sore and damaging your teeth, severe cases can even break or loosen teeth. If the stress-management techniques at the end of this article do not reduce the stress that is causing your teeth grinding, we would be happy to make you a mouth guard to wear while you sleep.
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can lead to swelling and stiffness in your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) which are what we use to move our lower jaw. If you’re experience clicking, popping, and pain for the first time, you may have developed a TMJ disorder. First, attempt to manage the stress that is causing your clenching and grinding, and eat a soft diet. If that doesn’t ease your discomfort, contact our office.
Most of us who have been attacked by the occasional painful and pesky mouth ulcer called a canker sore know they are typically triggered by stress. Again, we are in stressful times. We urge you to create a stress-reducing regimen. This will benefit not only your mouth but also your overall health. To ease canker sore discomfort, swish warm water with salt and baking soda. This will help the mouth heal quickly by reducing the bacteria in it. If you have not found relief after three weeks, call our office at Inland Institute - Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Phone Number 909-982-8888 and we may be able to prescribe you a gel or cream that will do the trick.
It is not uncommon for the culprit of gum disease to be stress because stress makes it hard for our bodies to fight off infection. Infected gums can bleed and cause teeth to loosen and breath to smell bad. Our treatments for gum disease begin with a stress reduction approach. Please call us at Inland Institute - Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Phone Number 909-982-8888 if it becomes unmanageable and we will get you in for some urgent care.
Dry Mouth Syndrome
Have you been experiencing a dry, hot, or burning feeling in your mouth? Stress, anxiety, and depression are normal reactions to the gravity that we’ve been going through these last several weeks, and they can sometimes lead to dry mouth syndrome. Learning how to manage stress is the most effective way to treat a burning mouth. We also recommend refraining from stress-related smoking and drinking which tend to acerbate the symptoms.
Managing Stress While You Shelter at Home
There are several things you can do to help reduce stress. If you have a difficult time managing the stress on your own, seek professional counseling via telehealth resources today. The following tips do not have to be added to your routine all at once. Take some time alone for yourself and implement what you can. Start today.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing.
- Identify what it is that stresses you. Naming it gives you power over it.
- Make a list of your responsibilities and put them in order of importance.
- Exercise daily.
- Talk with someone you trust.
- Get enough sleep—7 to 8 hours—every night.
Stress is a natural response to COVID-19, but it is crucial that we find healthy ways to cope. Taking care of yourself is more important than ever right now. So, minimize the amount of news you absorb each day, care for your body, make time to unwind, and stay connected with others. Your mental, physical and oral health deserve attention, so make self-care a priority today.
Be on the lookout for our next month’s blog: The Effects of Stress on Your Skin and What to Do About It.
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