Miami Orthodontist Talks StressStress is a nasty condition that can have harmful affects throughout the entire body – including teeth.

National Stress Awareness Month is observed in April each year, so we’re taking some time to explain not only how stress can affect your overall health, but how it can interfere with your orthodontic treatment as well.

Like everything else, your teeth are just as susceptible to stress as the rest of your body. And if you’re constantly stressed, you’ll know. Simple activities like chewing on certain foods can become painful and unpleasant.

Here are some of the most common stress-induced oral conditions that we see in our office and some treatment options we offer to ensure the orthodontic treatment process is as smooth as possible:

Bruxism
This is a condition where you involuntarily grind your teeth. Does the stability of the stock market, or the thought of tackling that big algebra exam cause you to clench or grind your teeth? Has anyone told you that you grind your teeth when you’re asleep? This habitual teeth grinding can wear down and chip your teeth, and make them prone to infections and bacteria. From an orthodontic standpoint, this condition can also promote unwanted tooth movement, which can incite crowding and irregular bites. Excessive grinding can lead to a more serious condition with the temporomandibular joint, and cause severe joint pain and weakness.

  • Braces are recommended for those who have malocclusion, or a bad bite. Bad bite can sometimes be linked to bruxism. Orthodontic treatment allows the teeth to be guided into the correct position and allow biting forces to be distributed properly, developing an aligned bite for efficient chewing and talking.

Canker Sores
Notice any small sores in your mouth? These tiny ulcers sometimes are a result of stress and cause irritation if left untreated. On a side note, the rough edge of an orthodontic appliance or a long archwire rubbing against the inside of your lip or cheeks also can cause these sores. Thankfully, these painful sores are not contagious and are easily treatable.

  • Orthodontic wax can prevent and relieve some of the discomfort canker sores cause, whether they were caused by stress or braces. Simply apply the wax to the area of your braces that rubs against the sore, and you’ll get a bit of instant relief. There also are pain relieving topical products that can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies and applied to the sore.

Poor Oral Hygiene
The stress of everyday life can affect your mood as well as your memory, and cause you to skip brushing, flossing and rinsing. It’s vital that you remember your oral health routine because otherwise, your teeth and gums will suffer.

Let’s be honest: when we’re stressed, we tend to gravitate toward carbohydrate-filled comfort foods and sugary sweets such as chocolate and cookies that only accelerate tooth decay and gum disease.  All the more reason to remember to brush and floss regularly.

  • Braces can make it a bit more challenging to brush. Coupled with stress, it can be difficult to remember. We are happy to provide you with soft picks so you can  remove debris that gets wedged between the brackets and wires. If you don’t have time to brush after a meal, rinsing your mouth out with water is better than nothing at all.

Stress & Long-Term Oral Problems

Stress left untreated can have serious, lasting effects on your teeth. These effects can manifest in painful sensitivity whenever you bite or chew. This discomfort is due to stress-related cracks that develop. Cracked tooth syndrome is a condition caused from excessive teeth grinding, pressure caused from teeth that are close together, and individuals who have large fillings to repair significant decay.

When a tooth is cracked, the different parts move in varying directions that further escalate the severity of the condition. This can trigger excruciating pain, since the nerves located in the inner dentin layer of the tooth are jerked and tugged whenever you chew. A crack also provides more areas for food particles to accumulate, which can lead to more decay.

By reinforcing a cracked tooth’s structure with a crown, patients regain a functioning smile without painful sensitivity. Your dentist may also recommend a root canal, in the event that the pulp has been affected by the crack. However, crowns and root canals do not always go hand-in-hand. When we suspect serious issues, we will refer you to your family or pediatric dentist, who will perform a thorough examination and recommend the option he or she feels is best for you.

You spend thousands of dollars on orthodontic treatment to achieve a beautiful and well-balanced smile. It would be unfortunate to halt treatment in the middle to address secondary problems caused by uncontrolled stress.

However, we understand stress happens. It’s a part of everyday life; it’s unavoidable. Managing your stress is a sure-fire way to reduce the effect it has on your body and teeth, and enable you to continue your orthodontic treatment without hindrance. Here are some helpful tips from Federal Occupational Health:

  • Take a walk
  • Read a book
  • Go for a run
  • Play a sport
  • Spend time with people who matter to you
  • Do yoga

Stress doesn’t have to affect you. Choosing how to respond to stress and recognizing when you need to seek professional attention is the key. The reward is a healthy, balanced life – with a beautiful smile, of course.

About Stress Awareness Month 
Sponsored by The Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization, Stress Awareness Month is a national, cooperative effort to inform the public about the risks of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society. For more information, visit http://stressawarenessmonth.com or to learn more about how to reduce your stress visit http://www.foh.dhhs.gov/calendar/april.html.