COVID-19: Is the Stress of Everything Affecting Your Oral Health?

COVID-19 has stepped into 2020 and taken over the lives of many. With fears of getting sick running rampant, many individuals losing some of their income, and some being stuck at home more, stress and anxiety are just natural side effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately, all the stress of COVID-19 can be detrimental to your oral health just as much as it is to the rest of your body.

You may be stuck at home, dealing with a lot, and potentially having to skip visits to the dentist temporarily. However, at Kawveh Nofallah, DMD, we are all about providing quality dental services and keeping our patients smiling. Here are a few things to keep in mind about COVID stress and your oral health, how to combat stress and anxiety, and when to consider going to see a dentist or dentistry center for help.

Signs of Stress in Your Oral Health

Believe it or not, even your mouth can tell you when you’re under a lot of stress, even though this is something most people under a lot of stress rarely pay attention to. One of the immediate signs of acute stress or anxiety is experiencing a dry mouth. When stress levels rise, you may be more likely to breathe sharply and at a faster rate, which can dry the mucosal passages. Some people even breathe through their mouth more when feeling anxious or stressed. Plus, acid reflux, which is common when stressed, can change the production and consistency of saliva.

Another sign of stress in your oral health is clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth. The tendency to do this is almost an unconscious thing; most people don’t even realize they are holding tension in their jaws when they feel stressed out. Not only is jaw clenching hard on the temporomandibular joints and the muscles surrounding the joints, but it can also mean you are grinding your teeth together. Grinding your teeth is referred to as bruxism in dentistry, and this can have severe effects on your teeth, such as stress fractures and wearing down the enamel. Some of the often-missed signs of jaw-clenching or bruxism include:

  • Sore jaws
  • Teeth that feel sore or loose
  • Headaches
  • Tension or aches in the neck and shoulders
  • Clicking, popping jaw tendons and joints
  • Earaches

Combatting Stress In Spite and Protecting Your Smile During the Pandemic

If you have noticed changes with your mouth during the pandemic, as mentioned, like grinding your teeth or experiencing a dry mouth, you may benefit from a few at-home solutions to destress and relieve anxiety. Harvard Health offers a few good ideas for oral health:

  1. Bring in some positivity. – We get it—a lot is going on amid COVID-19. It’s easy to find things to be stressed about. If you’re having a particularly bad day, step away from focusing on the negative for a bit and try to harness some good positive energy. Watch a funny movie with the family, call up a good friend that always makes you laugh, or just check out some funny cat videos. Laughter helps lower stress hormone levels, which in turn, can be useful for your body, heart, and of course, your smile.
  2. Get moving and get a bit of exercise. – If you’ve been feeling a little anxious watching the news, turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and get up and do some moving. A few jumping jacks across the house, some walking in place, or even a quick bout of air guitar can get your blood pumping, your heart rate up, and your stress levels down. Exercise helps produce mood-boosting chemicals that can help you feel much less anxious and a bit more at ease.
  3. Meditate, breathe, relax. – Meditation is the age-old remedy for combatting stress levels, and anyone can do it. Find a quiet place in the house, focus on your breathing, and think about positive feelings. Imagine you are breathing in fresh air to wash your body and mind of the junk and anxiety that comes with worrying about COVID. If you’re not big on meditating, yoga can help put you in a meditative state as well.

If you are feeling the tension in your jaws and this is only exacerbating your stress levels, drape a warm washcloth over your cheeks, close your eyes, and relax for a bit. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can also help. Also, do your best to stay well-hydrated to keep your mouth moist if you suspect stress is causing your mouth to be drier than usual.

When It’s Time to Call a Dentist for Oral Health Help

If the stress of living with COVID-19 has been especially tough on you, and you believe you are seeing negative implications in your mouth, it may be best to reach out to a dentist for help. For example, if you’ve had soreness in your jaws for weeks, have pain in your teeth from clenching and bruxism, or have dry mouth issues that won’t go away, it is best to talk to a professional. Reach out to us at Kawveh Nofallah, DMD to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kawveh Nofallah, a highly recognized Lakeland dentist who will thoroughly understand your unique dental concerns and oral health.

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