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More Patients Reporting Stress Related Dental Problems

There’s no denying we’re living in stressful times- and it’s not just in our heads. Stress can take its toll on us in different ways throughout the body. For some of us it appears in the form of tension headaches or muscle aches, while others engage in stress-related behaviors that we may not even realize we’re doing, like mindless snacking, chewing on things like pen caps or fingernails, or clenching or grinding our teeth.

Naturally, these behaviors can cause us problems down the road if we aren’t careful. Snacking can lead to weight gain and cavities, chewing objects besides food can damage the teeth and gums, and clenching or grinding our teeth can damage the teeth and cause pain to the jaw. But it’s definitely hard to stop these behaviors when we aren’t even aware we’re doing them. Maybe that’s why according to a new poll by the American Dental Association, dentists are noticing a major increase in stress related oral health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll found that among dentists surveyed, over half noticed increases in patients with bruxism (teeth grinding) to the tune of nearly 60 percent as well as cracked teeth at a rate of 53.4 percent. The condition known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction has also become more common, with a 53.4 percent increase in reported cases. Cavities are up, too. Dentists reported a nearly 30 percent increase in both cavities and periodontal disease.

So, what can we do to protect our teeth when there seems to be no end to stress and we may not even be aware we’re hurting ourselves? Here are a few tips and tricks you may want to try:

Chew sugarless gum. This can help prevent you from grinding your teeth or chewing on objects not meant to go into the mouth. It also helps neutralize plaque acid and can help reduce your risk of cavities.
Practice deep breathing. There are many meditation apps you can get right on your smartphone to help guide you through breathing exercises for your most stressful times
Speak to someone. Getting help from a professional therapist is a great way to talk through your stressors and get back to feeling like yourself again.
Speak to Dr. Peterson if you notice any changes to your teeth or if you are experiencing jaw pain, even if you aren’t sure why.

Coping with stress isn’t always easy, but saving your smile during stressful times doesn’t have to be difficult.

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Posted in: Bruxism, Dental Health, Dental News, General Dentistry

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