Stressed momYou’ve misplaced your keys, you’re already running late and your child is throwing a temper tantrum about the type of juice box you’ve selected for his lunch box. Stressed yet?

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, 75 percent of Americans report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month. Fifty-one percent of women, and 32 percent of men, report they have lain awake at night in the past month due to stress. Twenty-five percent of Americans’ stress has a strong or very strong impact on their physical or mental health. According to a national poll by NPR, half of all adults say they experienced a major stressful event in the past year. That amounts to more than 115 million people.

Stress is the result of your body’s natural response to uncontrollable events, and it’s often the everyday irritants, like misplacing your keys or running late to a meeting, that erode your ability to cope. The body tries to maintain balance by releasing chemicals to increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and increase your respiratory rate.

There is a clear connection between elevated levels of stress and your oral health, and higher levels of stress can lead to things like mouth sores, dry mouth, gum disease, grinding and clenching of the teeth, and TMJ headaches. Stress is often connected with poor sleep health, and the general dentistry team at Caffaratti Dental Group are actually trained sleep disorder specialists as well.

Stress and Your Mouth

Gum Disease

According to the CDC, half of all Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. That amounts to more than 64 million people with mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. The chronic inflammatory disease affects both the gum tissue and the bone supporting the teeth and can eventually lead to tooth loss. Research shows that periodontal disease can be associated with other chronic inflammatory diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

stressed manShort-term stress can actually lead to more dental plaque in your mouth, thanks to your body’s overzealous production of the hormone cortisol when you are stressed or anxious. Even more concerning, long-term stress affects the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections like gum disease. Inflammation tends to increase when you are experiencing higher levels of stress, allowing bacteria to thrive and making it more difficult for the body to fight off infection.

Studies at State University of New York in Buffalo, the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan have confirmed that the severity of gum disease increased with the amount of stress the patient was under. Stressed out people are also more likely to have poor oral habits, like forgetting to brush and floss, putting off visiting the dentist and smoking.

The good news is that periodontal disease treatment is possible, and the damage can be minimized when caught it its earliest stages. Good oral hygiene, visiting the dentist regularly and a healthy diet are the first steps in gum disease treatment – and keeping it at bay in the first place. Caffaratti Dental Group is highly experienced in periodontal disease treatment at every stage, and we can help you maintain your oral health after a periodontal cleaning or dental procedures.

Bruxism

Clenching and grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is often associated with stress. If you already clench or grind your teeth, stress can make it even worse, leading to a vicious cycle. Bruxism can occur during the day or at night, and you may not even be aware you’re doing it. Over time, bruxism can lead to worn or chipped teeth and increased pressure on the jaw muscles and joints.

Common signs of bruxism include:

  • Tooth wear, including fractures of teeth and fillings
  • Facial or jaw pain
  • Making sounds of clenching or grating teeth while sleeping, often noted by a sleeping partner
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum damage
  • Tooth sensitivity

The best method of treatment for bruxism is often a mouth guard worn at night. We can examine your mouth, bite and teeth to determine if you have bruxism and then customize a night guard for you to minimize the problem. Bruxism can also be caused by a sleep disorder, and Caffaratti Dental Group can diagnose and help treat sleep disorders as well.

TMJ/TMD

Bruxism can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. Chronic headaches associated with bruxism are often a direct result of the TMJ getting out of balance. When the TMJ experiences an improper balance of the muscles, tendons and joints in the jaw and mouth, it’s called Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMD. These TMJ headaches are a direct result of the stress, jaw alignment and unbalanced jaw muscle movements.

Common TMJ headache symptoms include:

•   Face and/or neck pain
•   Bruxism
•   Ringing in ears
•   Broken teeth
•   Clicking/popping of the jaw
•   Reduced mouth opening range
•   Tooth sensitivity
•   Vertigo
•   Uneven tooth wear and cracking
•   Ear pain not associated with an infection
•   Accelerated jawbone loss

Though more than 10 million Americans suffer from TMD, many with this type of headache pain go untreated or misdiagnosed for years. Treatment can include medication, orthodontics to realign teeth, surgery or other treatment plans, as well as a mouth guard for bruxism.

Poor Sleep

Stress and lack of sleep usually go hand and hand. According to the American Psychological Association, 37 percent of adults report fatigue or feeling tired because of stress. Many report that their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases. When they do not get enough sleep, 21 percent of adults report feeling more stressed. For those with higher reported stress levels, 45 percent feel even more stressed if they do not get enough sleep.

Young man can't sleep because of girlfriend's snoringLack of sleep can lead to serious, even fatal, medical issues like memory loss, obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Poor sleep health is even associated with lower life expectancy. In fact, sleeping five hours or less per night can increase mortality risk by 15 percent.

An estimated 50 to 70 million US adults suffer from some type of sleep disorder. If on a regular basis you feel irritable or sleepy during the day, have trouble concentrating, need caffeine to keep you going, have trouble staying awake when watching TV or reading, or have difficulty controlling your emotions, you may have a sleep disorder. Trained sleep disorder dentists, like the team at Caffaratti Dental Group, can diagnose and help treat sleep disorders, often with oral appliance therapy.

Are You Stressed?

The signs of chronic stress include a combination of things like being more irritable than usual, depression, increased worry over things out of your control, forgetfulness, recurring aches and pains, fatigue and recurring illnesses. To help manage your stress, try some of following tips:

  • Practice relaxation techniques, like meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
  • Simplify. Practice saying no to activities, events or added responsibilities.
  • Seek support. Talking things out with family, friends or a therapist can be helpful.
  • Manage time wisely. Delegate what you can and don’t overload your to-do list.
  • Be prepared. Organize your days, anticipate challenges and try to stay flexible.
  • Let go. Try not to worry about things that are out of your control.
  • Take a break. Even when you feel overwhelmed, taking an hour, or a few minutes, to enjoy a cup of tea, take a walk or imagine yourself in a relaxing place can refresh you.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a proven way to prevent – and sometimes treat – stress.
  • Eat smart. Increased stress doesn’t have to mean poor eating habits. Keep vegetables, fruits and water a priority.
  • Get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can hamper your ability to cope with stress.
  • Maintain your oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss once a day and see your dentist every six months.

Don’t Let Stress Get the Best of Your Oral Health

Whether you are experiencing inflamed gums, bruxism, headaches or poor sleep, Caffaratti Dental Group can help. Call today at 775-358-1555 to discuss your symptoms and we’ll develop a plan customized to you to improve your oral, and overall, health.