The holistic dentistry we practice at Assure A Smile is premised on the idea that oral health cannot and should not be viewed in isolation from other aspects of our health. Problems elsewhere in the body can lead to serious problems with your teeth and gums, and treating the symptoms without addressing the cause of such oral health issues can miss the big picture. This is particularly true when it comes to stress, which is often an overlooked cause of significant oral health conditions such as periodontitis.
How Stress Affects the Body
All of us feel stress from time to time. Some of us get more stressed than others, and some of us seem better equipped to handle the things that can cause stress, tension, or anxiety. Regardless, while stress may seem like just a mental condition or state of mind, it actually has physical component which can lead to other health problems.
When we get stressed, our bodies produce an increased amount of a hormone called cortisol. Our ancient ancestors relied on cortisol to help them sense and respond to life-threatening dangers. The same physical reaction that they had to, say, a tiger attacking them, occurs today when we feel we are under pressure or stress, whether life-threatening or not.
A number of studies have found a connection between higher cortisol levels caused by stress and periodontal problems. An excess of cortisol can lead to elevated insulin levels, dropping your blood sugar and causing you to crave sugary foods which can damage your teeth and gums and lead to gum disease.
Poor Oral Hygiene and Stress
Of course, our bodies’ chemical reaction to stress is not the only way we respond when we’re feeling anxious. We will often engage in behavior which, while comforting, may not be particularly healthy. We may eat too much, drink too much, and generally not take good care of ourselves. Excessive sugar intake, going to sleep without brushing and flossing, teeth grinding, and jaw clenching are a few ways in which stress can cause oral health problems. All of these things slowly break down tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavities. Poor oral hygiene habits also allow bacteria to accumulate and grow on the gum line, specifically within the pockets and spaces that naturally occur between teeth and gums. This can lead directly to gum disease.
The oral health consequences of stress are just one example of why we take a holistic approach to oral health and general well-being. At Assure A Smile, we partner with our patients to help them develop healthy, natural, and effective oral hygiene habits as part of an overall wellness strategy and holistic healthcare approach.
To learn more about the importance of holistic dentistry and how to develop healthier habits for a better you, please contact us today at 305-274-0047.