Is Stress Affecting Dental Patients?

Synergy Parkside Dental looks at the possible oral health consequences of ‘lockdown stress’.

Stressed dental patientAlthough there is no formal news about dental practices opening yet and it may still be a little while away, things do seem to be slowly improving in the Covid-19 crisis and some shops are now gradually planning to re-open (with appropriate distancing and other precautions) in the near future.

We are also hopeful that the government will look at the options for opening dental practices soon as there will be an increasing number of people who are suffering with fairly uncomfortable oral problems.

Whilst treatment is available in special dental units for the most serious cases, even a moderate toothache can be very distressing even with the use of painkillers. There will be other problems too that people will be having to deal with without professional dental support.

All of this will add to the general stress of the restrictions that have been placed on us. In today’s blog, we take a look at some of the ways that this stress may have affected your teeth and gums.

Reduced home dental care

Even if unintentionally, it is quite possible that some of us will not have brushed our teeth as often or as well as we used to do. This is likely to apply more in the morning as we are out of a routine. Even a small reduction in this could have an effect on our teeth and gums, leading to possible tooth decay and gum disease. If you suspect that you may have been ‘guilty’ of this, remember that it is not too late to start to improve this now with regular brushing and flossing.

Increased snacking

There have been reports that, perhaps unsurprisingly, there has been an increase in snacking during lockdown. Whether this is through boredom or stress doesn’t really matter in terms of the result. Any snacking over a period of time is not good for the oral health of our Woking patients. Even relatively healthy foods, if consumed in this way, can be harmful as there is insufficient time in between snacking for our saliva to clear the mouth of food particles and excess bacteria. In addition to this, many ‘snack’ foods tend to be high in sugar, a well known problem for our teeth.

If you do snack; in addition to brushing and flossing, try to drink water after your snack, swilling it around your mouth before swallowing. This will help to remove some of the offending food particles.

Bruxism

Stress can manifest in a number of ways and one sign that dentists notice is where the teeth are worn down through grinding them together. This problem, known as Bruxism, can do significant damage to the teeth.

In extreme cases, teeth have been known to break or shatter, although this is more likely with already weakened teeth. More common is a gradual erosion of the enamel over a period of time. With a reduction in healthy protective tooth enamel, decay and sensitive teeth are much more likely. Unfortunately, as the teeth grinding often takes place whilst we sleep, the only real way to stop it is to try to reduce stress, perhaps through relaxation methods or other suitable interventions. Restorative treatments such as crowns are available to restore teeth affected in this way once the underlying problem has been resolved.

Anxiety about returning to the dentist

This lockdown period also poses an additional problem for anxious patients, especially those who may have had an appointment cancelled because of the coronavirus. It may be tempting, once we contact you to rearrange when we are open again, to not make or keep a new appointment, but we urge you to do so. If you are especially nervous, and this may have become worse with the additional stress, please discuss this with us so that we can help you to receive the dental care that you need to have a healthy mouth.

Avoiding dental appointments, even checkups, is never a good idea and may mean that a minor problem is not detected which will go on to require far more invasive treatment later. Your six monthly checkup appointment is important; please keep it!

Your oral health is important and we urge you to look after your teeth and gums at home during this challenging period of time. At the moment we are only able to refer you for emergency treatments but can offer advice by ‘phone if you have a dental problem that is causing you discomfort.

You can contact the AJ Dental Group by calling us on 01483 766355 or 01932 352333.

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