People may overlook the effect stress has on our oral health. However, our mouths can be just as affected by stress as the rest of our bodies are. Stress can have real consequences for our oral health as well as overall well-being.

The general effect of stress is that people tend to neglect their oral health-care routines: they may not brush or floss as often as they should or miss dental appointments; they alter their diet by consuming more sugar- and carbohydrate-laden foods; and they drink more coffee and other unhealthy liquids like energy drinks and soda pop. This not only greatly increases the risk of tooth decay, but the additional acid contributes to the erosion of tooth enamel.

The signs and symptoms of chronic stress can be subtle, and you may not be aware of its effects until it’s too late. Being able to detect the oral signs of stress means your dentist is the first line of defense against the toll stress can take on your health.

Stress can also manifest into various oral health conditions that, if left untreated, can have serious impacts to your overall health and well-being. Here are some of the more common ones.

Stress is a contributing factor to other serious oral-health conditions, including:

Bruxism, or teeth grinding. People under stress may clench or grind their teeth, especially during sleep, and may not even be aware of it. Over a long period of time, bruxism can wear down tooth surfaces. Teeth can also become painful or loose from severe grinding or prone to fractures.

The tell-tale signs and symptoms of bruxism are:

  • teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
  • worn tooth enamel
  • increased tooth sensitivity
  • damage from chewing on your tongue or the inside of your cheek
  • pain or soreness in the jaw or face, tired or tight jaw muscles
  • a dull headache originating in the temples, pain that feels like an earache

Over a long period of time, bruxism can cause a lot of irreparable damage. Bruxism is also a major cause of disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints. Depending on the patient, a dentist will recommend an oral appliance or nightguard which may help in reducing the bruxism habit and helps protect the teeth from damage caused by grinding.

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD affects the jaws joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn. Symptoms include tender or sore jaw muscles, headaches and problems opening or closing your mouth. Bruxism is a major cause of TMD – clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache.

Periodontal (gum) disease. Research has shown that stress affects our immune systems, increasing our susceptibility to infections, including the bacteria that cause gum disease. At times gingival tissues can show signs of inflammation that could be stress-related as well as increased signs and symptoms of certain oral conditions like lichen planus.

Xerostomia (dry mouth). Dry mouth can be caused by stress and can also be a side-effect of medications taken to treat stress and depression. Saliva is vital to keep your mouth moist, wash away food and neutralize the acids that are produced by plaque. Without an adequate flow of saliva, your mouth’s first line of defense against plaque is compromised and this can lead to tooth decay. If dry mouth is left untreated, you can develop tooth decay, gum disease and be at a greater risk for fungal or viral infections in your mouth.

To combat the effects of dry mouth, your dentist may recommend that you chew sugarless gum, sip water regularly and use non-alcohol mouthwashes and over-the-counter saliva substitutes.

Time to De-stress

It may be impossible to eliminate all stress from your life, but you can take simple steps to reduce its impact on your health.

  • Find relaxation techniques or exercises to help you cope with stress. Counselling may also help.
  • Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Schedule and keep regular appointments with your dentist. Your dentist can detect the signs of stress during an examination, and therefore diagnose and treat stress-related oral-health problems before they worsen.
  • Talk to your dentist about getting a custom-fitted nightguard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to moisten your mouth and stay hydrated.
  • Stay active. If you don’t have time to exercise, a 30-minute walk every day is a good start.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

If you or a family member suffer from jaw pain and headaches call Dr. Appleton and schedule an appointment.

(Information provided by the Ontario Dental Association)
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Signs your teeth aren’t as healthy as you think.

  • bleeding gums and bad breath can both be signs of gum disease.
  • if you notice white patches on your teeth or a tooth getting darker over time, consider seeing a dentist as you might have cavities or dental trauma.

Everyone wants a healthy smile, but it’s not always easy to tell when your teeth are struggling.

Indicators are:

You have bad breath all the time

Though it’s normal to experience bouts of bad breath once in a while, persistently bad breath might mean something is amiss in your mouth.

Bad breath or can be a warning sign of gum disease. Improper brushing and flossing can lead to a buildup of plaque and bacteria on the teeth and gums causing inflammation and bleeding of the gums.

Bad breath can also be caused by sinus issues or even stomach problems, so it’s worth a trip to the dentist if you notice your bad breath isn’t going away.

Your tongue looks white

A healthy tongue should be light pink.

Your tongue can turn many different colors depending on what you’ve recently eaten but if you notice that your tongue usually looks white and coated, your mouth might not be as healthy as you think.
Keep bacteria at bay by giving your tongue a quick scrub with your toothbrush or the ribbed back of your brush head. Keeping up with brushing and flossing is also a good way to decrease the harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Food is always getting stuck between your teeth

If you find yourself frequently fishing food out of your smile, it might be a symptom of a growing cavity.

If you’re flossing and brushing like normal but feel that there’s always food stuck between your teeth, this could be a sign of a hidden cavity between teeth that you can’t see from the surface.

If you suspect that food might be catching on a hidden cavity, be sure to bring it up with your dentist so that they can take a look between your teeth. It’s also a good idea to keep up with regular flossing to keep any small cavities from growing larger.

Your gums bleed when you brush or floss

Brushing your teeth shouldn’t cause your gums to bleed.

If you’ve been noticing a bit of blood in your toothbrush or saliva after brushing or flossing, it could be a sign that your gums are in distress.

Inflamed gums bleed upon a light touch, even with a toothbrush. Healthy gums do not bleed upon a light touch. If you see pink in the sink after brushing your teeth may not be as healthy as you think.

You have white patches on your teeth

White patches on your teeth could be one of the first indicators of an impending cavity.

White spots could indicate early tooth decay with porosity and weakening of the enamel.

Tooth decay is often in areas that you can’t see, like the back of teeth or between teeth, so it’s hard to spot with the naked eye. That’s why scheduling regular dental appointments is so important.

You’ve noticed one tooth getting darker over time

Sometimes dental problems can be seen rather than felt. When one tooth starts to look darker than surrounding teeth, it might indicate a nerve problem.

If a tooth is struck, often in an athletic trauma, the nerve inside the tooth cannot sustain the blow. This tooth can become necrotic and can darken over the years relative to its neighbor.

This condition often occurs in front teeth. If you notice one tooth darkening, you should definitely consult a dentist even if the tooth doesn’t hurt. Not doing so can result in the loss of the tooth.

You have lingering discomfort

With healthy teeth, you should not experience discomfort when brushing, flossing, or chewing. Pain when biting or eating can indicate you’ve sustained a temporary tooth injury or more serious damage.

Sometimes you can have a ‘bruised tooth.’ For example, if you bite into a pebble in a salad unexpectedly, the tooth can become tender for a few days. Like any bruise in your body, this eventually heals.

Any tooth pain that does not go away after a week could be a sign of a serious issue, such as a cracked tooth, which might require restorative dentistry.

Your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold drinks

If your teeth hurt for a while after drinking hot liquids, consider seeing a dentist.

Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages can be a sign that a cavity is brewing in your teeth. Healthy teeth usually aren’t too sensitive to extreme temperatures, but ailing teeth might hurt or ache after you take a sip of hot tea or enjoy a bowl of ice cream.

Often, the length of time the teeth hurt are an indication of how severe the problem may be. Do not be alarmed if it hurts just for a second because sometimes cold drinks tend to trigger a bit of sensitivity for just a brief second. You know you may be having a problem if the sensitivity to cold or hot lasts longer and longer.

Please call Dr. Appleton for a complete exam at 905-668-6301.  

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    Whether you smoke it, vape, or use edibles, cannabis (marijuana) can
    negatively impact your dental appointment.
    If you consume cannabis products before your dental appointment it can affect the outcome of your procedure. Be sure your use of cannabis is part of your current medical history (just
    like tobacco and alcohol).To ensure your safety, your dentist needs to know if you have taken any cannabis prior to your dental appointment.
    Various strains of cannabis have different amounts of THC. The amount of THC in your system is determined by the strain, the amount and the way it is consumed. When smoked or inhaled as vapour, the effects tend to peak sooner and dissipate more rapidly. When eaten, the drug effect takes longer to appear, lasts longer and is less predictable.
    Please avoid consuming cannabis products before your procedure. Your dentist may need
    to re-schedule your appointment for another time to ensure your safety.
    Cannabis can impact the effects of medications and anaesthetic needed for your procedure.
    Using cannabis can increase your risk of bleeding and cause complications for healing after your dental procedure.

Information provided by the Ontario Dental Association

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