What do bruxism (teeth clenching) and shopping surges have in common? First, they are common during the holidays. And, both may very well be the products of stress — during the holidays and out of it.
Whether it is the Fourth of July or Christmas, holidays bear more than gifts and celebrations. All the shopping, meal preparation, and dealing with relatives can get on the nerves. As a result, holiday celebrations can turn into holiday stress that can affect oral health.
The effects the holidays can have on oral health range from teeth clenching to irritating sores. Find out more about what can happen to your teeth and mouth when merry-making takes a stressful turn.
One of the most common signs of a stress response is bruxism. In common day terms, bruxism is the gnashing and grinding of teeth. It occurs during certain phases of deep sleep. To some, grinding the teeth is a way to diffuse feelings of frustration and anxiety.
As a stress response, bruxism is often done subconsciously. While it is not the most life-threatening of habits, it can cost you your teeth. The friction from teeth clenching can damage the tooth enamel, the outermost layer of the teeth.
Once the tooth enamel has been worn down, cavities can develop. At its worst, bruxism can also damage the gumline, causing teeth to either break or loosen.
Drying of the Mouth
During stress, breathing shifts from the nose to the mouth. When a person breathes through the mouth long enough, the mouth can dry up. The reason for this is that the oxygen inhaled is a dry gas. The passage of oxygen along mucous membranes (like the mouth) can cause the usually moist structures to dry.
A dry mouth can be a breeding ground for bacteria that cause halitosis (bad breath). Also, without moisture and lubrication from saliva, the mouth can develop cracks and sores. Tooth decay can also result from the absence of saliva.
Stress can cause erratic chewing patterns. This is brought about by the mandibular tension that stress can cause. At times, the movement of the jaw can cause the teeth to rub too close to the buccal mucosa or cheek. When this happens, sores on the cheeks — or canker sores — form.
Benign yet uncomfortable, canker sores can worsen if left untreated.
Chronic tension on the jawline caused by stress can lead to TMD or temporomandibular disorder. The disorder causes jaw and temporal headaches and can also affect the health of teeth.
This condition will require a visit to the dentist. Left untreated, TMD can cause long-lasting and often irreparable damage to the molars.
Protect Your Teeth from the Effects of Holiday Stress
Stress can affect your teeth and how you enjoy the holiday season. However, at times, stressful events happen unavoidably, costing you your holiday experience and teeth.
Have the milk, cookies, eggnog, and teeth-gnashing taken their toll on your teeth? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Adesanya now and give your teeth something to celebrate about.