There is a lot of evidence that oral health is related to systemic conditions.
Maintaining good oral health was always recommended. The recent changes in our daily lives related to the Covid-19 outbreak has underlined the importance of doing so. I have been providing emergency and urgent care to my patients during this pandemic . While doing so I have observed an increase in emergency calls related to dental problems that can be linked to increased stress.
Emotional stress can be a common cause of oral health problems such as tooth aches related to grinding or clenching, sensitive and bleeding gums, painful symptoms of dry mouth and canker sores.
Stress can have a negative impact on diet, by changing the intake of nutrients, reduction in routine oral hygiene habits and sedentary behaviour. Patients experiencing more stress should be monitored closely for sign ans symptoms of oral diseases. The difficulties in accessing a dental professional will make this monitoring less successful and can become a source of additional stress. Self monitoring and self assessment will become more important in the situation when dental care is less accessible.
Tooth sensitivity. Grinding and clenching can cause damage to your teeth, makeing them more sensitive. It can course headaches and soreness of the jaw. Grinding often occurs during the night and you may not be aware that you are doing it. These habits can occur during the day time as well. Maintaining your exercise schedule, proper sleep habits and working on relaxation techniques should help with stress reduction.
What to do : If you have a night guard make sure you are wearing it every night. Daytime clenching is easier to control by consciously working on relaxing your jaw and face muscles.
Gum Disease: Stress can lower your immune system and increase the risk for infection in general. Your mouth reacts the same. It is suggested that inflammatory response to stress results in the progression of periodontal disease. This can manifest in bleeding gums, bad breath and soreness of the gums.
What to do: Maintain or increase your oral hygiene habits by doing your daily flossing and brushin. Rinsing your mouth with salt and warm water or antiseptic mouthwash rinses like Listerine is another good remedy.
Dry mouth . It can be a side effect of stress or the medicines used to control stress, anxiety and depression. Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defence against bacteria. Stress can reduce salivary flow and this will increase the risk of developing cavities, gum disease, bad breath and infection.
What to do. Drink plenty of water, reduce smoking, reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption. You can use the Biotene product, available in local pharmacies They are designed to help reduce dry mouth. Biotene is available in the form of a toothpaste, chewing gum, lozenges, mouth rinse and gel especially effective for nighttime dryness. Don’t use alcohol based rinses since they will dry your mouth even more.
Canker Sores: They are also called aphtous ulcers and are not related to cold sores. Young people and adolescence are more prone to cancer sores, which are strongly linked to emotional stress. They are painful, white spots, surrounded by a circle of red tissue, occurring inside your mouth. They are not contagious, they do not pose any health risk and will usually go away on their own within 7-10 days. Some toothpaste ingredients can cause canker sores.
What to do: You can help reduce sensitivity by changing your diet. Avoid eggplant, possibly gluten, acidic and spicy foods like tomatoes. These are a few examples that can cause irritation leading to more pain.
Try changing to a different brand of toothpaste. You can also purchase topical numbing ointment from your local pharmacy like Orajel to help with pain.
Tooth Decay: A neglected oral health routine, unhealthy lifestyle choices and dry mouth can increase your risk for more cavities.
What to do: This is a good time to keep up or even step up your daily oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and using alcohol free antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine.
Grazyna Wolf, DDS
Escarpment Vie Dental