Helping mums maintain oral health amidst the stresses of daily life
Being a mum can bring great joy, but it also comes with its fair share of stress and challenges. With many responsibilities to handle, stress can become a constant companion for many moms. Unfortunately, the impact of stress on our oral health is often overlooked.
Stress can give rise to many oral health issues, including gum disease, tooth decay, mouth ulcers, teeth grinding or jaw clenching. As mothers, understanding how stress affects our oral health can help us take steps to protect ourselves and our families.
The link between stress and oral health
Stress and teeth grinding
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are common signs of stress. These habits can cause damage to your teeth, gums, and jaw over time. Bruxism can cause headaches, earaches, and facial pain, which can make daily routines extra challenging. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to irreversible tooth damage and even tooth loss.
Stress and the immune system
Stress can weaken the immune system by triggering the overproduction of a stress hormone called cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can increase inflammation in the body, including in our gums, leading to periodontal disease. Additionally, cortisol can hamper the body’s ability to fight off infections, which makes it easier for bacteria to attack the gums and bones that hold the teeth in place. All in all, stress has multiple flow-on effects that can make it harder to maintain oral health.
Stress and oral hygiene
Stress can dampen our motivation to maintain good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing regularly. Unfortunately, this can result in the buildup of plaque — a sticky film of bacteria that erodes tooth enamel and causes cavities, gum disease and bad breath.
Stress, diet and sleep
Stress can cause changes in appetite and sleep patterns, which can further impact your oral health. For instance, stress-induced sleep deprivation can lead to decreased saliva production, which can result in a dry mouth and increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Our healthy eating habits can also suffer when we are coping with stress, as we become more likely to indulge in sugary or acidic foods and drinks. These habits can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, and erode tooth enamel.
Stress and pre-existing dental issues
Many dental issues are exacerbated by stress, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). TMJ is a condition that affects the jaw joint and the muscles controlling jaw movement. Symptoms of TMJ can include jaw pain, difficulty chewing, and clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth. These symptoms can become more pronounced when we are under stress.
In addition, stress can increase the risk of mouth ulcers, which are small, painful sores that can form inside the mouth. Also known as canker sores, they are typically caused by a combination of factors, including stress, injury to the mouth, and certain foods. While they usually heal on their own within a week or two, they can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to eat and speak.
Seven tips for a happy mouth and a chill mind
Stress reduction benefits many areas of health, especially oral health. Healthily minimising and managing tension brings us greater freedom to live the lives we choose, including as capable leaders and carers for our families.
1. Regular exercise
Regular exercise isn’t just great for your body; it also reduces stress levels and keeps your pearly whites in tip-top shape. When you work out, blood circulation improves, delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to your gums and teeth. So, lace up those sneakers and give your mouth a reason to smile!
2. Meditation and deep breathing
Take a few moments each day to practise relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, and give your mind and mouth a well-deserved break. These calming practices release tension and can help bring balance to your thoughts, which may reduce stress hormones.
3. Therapy or counselling
Stress can have deep roots. Seeking therapy or counselling can help you tackle underlying psychological factors that contribute to stress. Unleash your worries in a judgement-free zone and learn strategies to keep your mind calm and your smile radiant.
4. Kick the habit
Smoking is no friend to your oral health, and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to trouble too. Ditch the cigarettes and limit alcohol to protect your gums and teeth. Your mouth will thank you, and you’ll have more reasons to smile brightly.
5. Beauty sleep
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. When you catch those Z’s, your body can repair and regenerate, including the tissues in your mouth. Adequate sleep lowers stress levels and boosts your immune system, a superhero combo for a healthy mouth. Rest up and wake up with a grin!
6. Stretch and smile breaks
Take mini breaks throughout the day to stretch and get your body moving. Physical activity helps release tension and lowers stress. Whether it’s a quick yoga pose or a dance party in your living room, keep that body grooving and your mouth will be grinning.
7. Self-care, because you’re worth it
Prioritise yourself and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether it’s indulging in a bubble bath, reading a good book, or jamming to your favourite tunes, self-care is the secret ingredient to a happy mind and a healthy smile. Treat yourself, because you deserve it!
Self-care encompasses a range of practices that promote overall well-being, and taking care of your oral health is an essential component. Enjoy the benefits of a healthy and radiant smile with these tips.
- Practise good oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice daily and flossing every day.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet, and limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Visit your dentist every six months for regular dental checkups and cleanings.v
- Consult your dentist for a custom-fitted night guard to protect your teeth and jaw from damage caused by teeth grinding or clenching.