Monday, April 2, 2012

Stress and Oral Health

Recent research has shown that there is a link between stress and our physiologic health. The full extent of this connection is still being studied and more is discovered all the time. One of the ways that stressful conditions affect our bodies is through production of certain hormones. One such hormone is cortisol which is released in response to being anxious and/or depressed. It's primary functions are to increase blood sugar; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also decreases bone formation. However  If the stress is persistent, the level of cortisol remains elevated as a compensatory mechanism and sustained elevated levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on many tissues including teeth and gums. This can lead to gum disease or periodontitis. There’s also evidence that stress and depression impair your immune system, making chronic infection throughout your body—including in your mouth—more likely. Certain sores in the mouth and bruxism(grinding or clenching of teeth) can also be a result of chronic stress.  In addition, hard times lead to bad habits which include less or no oral hygiene, smoking, drinking alcohol, and skipping necessary dental cleanings and check-ups.
The good news is that we are able to control our stress levels to some extent and in turn improve our overall health. We can change our outlook by realizing that some things are out of our control and for that reason not worth getting stressed out about. 
It is important to try and see life events as positive challenges rather than threats.
We can keep our bodies healthy by eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis. This will allow us to get in shape and also feel better by producing mood-boosting brain chemicals.
There are also many relaxation techniques including meditation, stretching and progressive muscle relaxation which involves a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.