Connecting your stress level to your gum line to your financial bottom line may not seem like a logical track of association, but you may be surprised at how one can affect the other.
For many people, today’s stressful environment stems from money, and the economy in general. Chronic stress can initiate a host of health problems, including a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and even periodontal (gum) disease. Indeed, chronic stress is associated with higher and more prolonged levels of the hormone cortisol, which research has indicated can lead to a more destructive form of gum disease.
Gum disease is typically triggered by a bacterial infection in the mouth. The American Academy of Periodontology has evidence that links infections in the mouth to other, seemingly unrelated, medical problems in some people, including a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes, preterm births and respiratory disease.
Therefore, it’s easy to understand why a study published in the Journal of Periodontology documents that patients with severe gum disease have 21 percent higher health care costs, compared to patients with no gum disease. With this information in hand, the connecting line from your mouth to your wallet becomes ever clearer.
Even if nothing in your mouth hurts, we cannot stress strongly enough the importance of regular dental checkups. Gum disease, for one, is something that is often hard to detect without a formal examination, which is why your dental visits should be a regular part of your overall health schedule. We urge you to be diligent with your dental appointments, especially if you already have heart or lung disease, diabetes or osteoporosis and low bone mass, if you are thinking of becoming pregnant, or if you have a family member with gum disease. Routine oral examinations can also uncover symptoms of oral cancer, eating disorders, substance abuse and HIV.
Stress can trigger a quick spiral into bad habits, which can then affect physical and mental health. Smokers tend to increase their tobacco use — a proven trigger to gum disease — while drinkers may step up their alcohol dependency. Stress can also lead to depression, which affects people’s desire to take care of themselves, including oral hygiene neglect. Not brushing or flossing allows the accumulation of plaque, tartar and bacteria to collect on and between the teeth, inflaming the gums and precipitating gum disease.
Nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism) is another common stress indicator. Patients are often surprised to learn that their sore jaws and frequent headaches are a direct result of teeth grinding, or that they even grind their teeth at all! A professional dental inspection will confirm bruxism, and we can create a nightguard, and make recommendations on how to further reduce the trauma caused by the grinding.
Managing stress and its effects on our mental, physical, and financial health begins with taking care of small concerns before they become big, expensive problems. Don’t wait until there’s a problem.
If you haven’t already scheduled your next dental appointment, please call us today
An Apple a Day Keeps the Dentist at Bay?
More and more people these days are making a conscious effort to replace unhealthy snacks with fruit, and soda with fruit juice. At the same time, dentists are beginning to notice more signs of acid wear on patients’ teeth. The explanation for this paradox is that it isn’t what you eat or drink, but how you consume them.
To counteract the effect of fruits and other acidic foods on tooth enamel, it helps to pair the foods with cheese or nuts. For example, consider munching on a few nuts after finishing your apple. Similarly, balance the acidic effect of your glass of wine or juice by following it with some cheese. These healthy pairings are delicious ways to protect your teeth while adding additional health benefits to your diet.
Fruit juices are another deceptive choice. While obviously better than soda from a nutritional standpoint, fruit juices do contain natural sugars and acids. Parents feeding their baby juice are urged to wipe their child’s teeth and gums with a soft, wet washcloth following the feeding, and to never to let the baby fall asleep with a bottle of juice in his or her mouth.
Following an acidic food or drink, remember to rinse your mouth with water, but don’t brush. Brushing can actually expedite the acid’s eroding effect on the teeth. Wait at least an hour, allowing enough time for the acidity in your mouth to neutralize before you brush.