There’s no doubt that the coronavirus crisis has caused stress and anxiety for many of us. In fact, early research tells us that the psychological impact for most individuals has been moderate to severe. So how does our mental health affect our oral health? We’ll look at some ways stress can impact a healthy smile and offer suggestions for coping.
It is understandable that many of us turn to comfort foods during stressful times. Often this means eating foods that are harmful to teeth, such as hard or chewy candies, sodas, sport drinks, sticky foods, alcohol, coffee, and starchy snacks. When stress gives you the urge to snack, try turning to healthier foods instead, such as raw or crunchy fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, and seeds. These foods are better for your teeth and overall health.
Clenching and Grinding
Bruxism, or clenching and grinding teeth, is a common reaction to stress, tension, and anxiety. The Bruxism Association reports that up to 70% of teeth grinding is caused by stress. It can happen during the day or while sleeping, and most of the time we are not aware we are doing it. The most common symptoms are headaches upon waking, earaches, jaw or facial pain, generalized tooth sensitivity, limited ability to open your jaw, and damaged or worn teeth.
Research has also shown a link between psychological stress and canker sores. The Mayo Clinic describes canker sores as “shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums” that can range in size and severity. They can sometimes be very painful.
Home Care Tips
Coping with Clenching and Grinding
If you’re experiencing symptoms related to clenching or grinding your teeth, try these home care tips suggested by our hygienists:
- Gently massage the outer part of the jaw joints to relax tense muscles.
- Place a warm, moist cloth on the outside of the cheeks.
- Change your sleeping position.
- Try over-the-counter pain medicines to reduce inflammation if you have pain or discomfort.
Lips Together, Teeth Apart
During highly stressful situations, our hygienists tell us that the optimal rest position of the jaw is lips together, teeth slightly apart, with the tip of the tongue resting just behind your upper front teeth, and breathing through your nose.
According to Mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” The site offers some tips for practicing mindful meditation, which has been shown to help ease stress.
If you’re looking for more resources on managing anxiety or stress during the coronavirus crisis, check out these additional tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the American Psychological Association.
We Are Open
We are now open for all dental services. If you missed an appointment because of COVID-19 restrictions, please contact us to reschedule to help prevent cavities, infections, or other potential complications. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can go a long way in supporting your overall health.