Over the past year, some dental offices have been reporting higher rates of cracked teeth than in years’ past. Take this dentist’s experience documented in the New York Times for example. So, is there some weird connection between COVID-19 and cracked teeth? Well, kind of. While cracked teeth are not directly related to the virus they can be an unwanted side effect of the stress caused by the pandemic. As we all know, stress can affect our health in many ways, and your dentist in Madison wants you to know that your oral health is no exception.
Stress can put us at increased risk for heart disease, digestive problems, and can even reduce the effectiveness of our immune systems, which is the opposite of what we want nowadays. When we are stressed out, our bodies also respond with subconscious reactions such as increased sweating, rapid heart rate, and the inability to concentrate. Another common reaction that many of us experience, but may not even be aware of, is clenching or grinding our teeth.
Repeatedly squeezing or grinding our top teeth against our bottom teeth puts unnatural pressure on the teeth themselves, as well as the jaw joint. When this happens a lot, like during periods when you’re more stressed than normal, it can increase the likelihood of tooth damage such as cracked, chipped, or broken teeth. It can also cause jaw muscles to become sore and may even lead to TMJ disorder, also known as TMD. While your dentist in Madison can help fix any tooth damage that may occur and may even be able to help relieve TMJ pain, it’s best to try to avoid those problems in the first place.
Gum disease is usually associated with poor oral health, ineffective oral hygiene habits, or a result of tobacco use. But long periods of high stress levels can also increase the risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease is a serious condition that requires an early diagnosis and treatment to keep it from progressing into an irreversible problem. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and increase the risk of other whole-body health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and some cancers. Keep an eye out for some of the common signs of gum disease including:
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist in Madison.
Keep Calm & Stay Healthy
It’s only natural to feel stressed out occasionally, and more so in today’s uncertain world. But to protect your health and smile, try to keep stress levels in check and use stress-reduction techniques such as:
- Sleeping. Getting 8 hours of sleep a night is an important part of staying healthy as it gives your body time to recover.
- Meditating. Mediating can lower heart rate and, in turn, stress levels. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and feel the stress melt away.
- Exercising. Increasing your heart rate (in a good way) through exercise can release endorphins and make you feel happier and less stressed out.
Finding the right stress-reduction technique can take some trial and error, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Whatever works for you, stick to it to help manage your stress and protect your health.