Is Your Mouth Still Feeling Stress from the Holidays?

By Nicole Dean

There’s no doubt about it, the holidays are stressful. Whether you dread the holiday season or you look forward to it, it creates a certain amount of stress in everyone.
Like many others who have conquered this holiday season, you may be noticing that your oral health may have been on stress overload also. Maybe you’ve noticed some dull headaches, sore jaw joints or achy teeth? Perhaps canker sores on the soft tissues on the inside the mouth or, you’ve noticed the inside of your cheeks, lips, and your tongue are really dry. These are all symptoms of stress. And yes, your mouth feels the stress just as the rest of your body would.
Simple things can be done on your part to help your mouth rebound from the post-holiday hustle and bustle.
1) Most often, and a very common sign of added stress, is clenching and/ or grinding your teeth which can result in head and neck aches, sore jaw joints, and tender or achy teeth.
a. Try reducing the amount of caffeine you’re consuming throughout the day. I know that our morning coffee or tea is what gets most of us going, but it may be doing a number on your teeth and joints. Caffeine is a stimulant and most always contributes to tension within the jaw joints leading to a clenched bite. And how about that glass of wine before dinner or that after dinner cocktail? Studies have shown that alcohol in any amount can cause a grinding motion of the lower jaw. Grinding of the teeth can severely compromise the structural integrity of tooth structure but also be painful and can cause teeth to feel mobile. Many pharmacies and even online retailers carry over the counter mouth guards that can be worn at night and during the day as well. Most dental offices also offer custom fitting guards that are unique to your teeth and bite as well. They can offer comfort and relief to the teeth and joint in addition to saving you costly visits to the dentist for chipped and broken teeth.
2) In times of stress our bodies produce an over abundance of acid but also during the holiday season we consume foods and beverages that we typically wouldn’t on a regular basis, or we consume them in excess. Some people will experience acid reflux, heartburn, or we sip on drinks and nibble on foods throughout the day which bathes our teeth in acids continuously. Between holiday stresses and tempting goodies, our teeth and gum tissues are dealing with an over load of acid. You may notice the next morning or a few days after your holiday party or family dinner, your teeth feel a little rough and you have tiny, tender, blister like lesions on your tongue or inside of your cheeks. CANKERS SORES!!!! The result of too much acid within the body or being consumed. As a preventative measure, try passing off some of the pre-holiday work load to a family member or good friend and stay in tune with oral hygiene care like brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an oral rinse that helps balance the pH in the mouth. Post-holiday symptoms? Again, stay in tune with regular oral hygiene care. Find an oral rinse that will help regulate the pH in the mouth or try warm salt water rinses 3-4 times a day which can help heal these painful little sores and offer some relief.
3) Dry mouth. This may not seem very serious but dry mouth can lead to many other oral problems and is proven to occur during the holidays and even linger into the post-holiday days and weeks that follow. Stress can inhibit the saliva glands production causing dry mouth to occur. Not only that, dry mouth is often listed as a symptom on prescription drugs used to help people with their stress levels. During the holidays, stress levels, certain holiday foods, and alcoholic beverages can increase the risk of suffering dry mouth. While dry mouth isn’t too serious, it is uncomfortable and can eventually lead to more severe problems like tooth decay and gum disease.To reduce dry mouth symptoms and protect your oral health make sure your drinking at least 3 liters of water per day. Water not only hydrates the oral cavity, its healthy for you, and helps wash away acids and food particles that adhere to the teeth and gums. Chewing sugar free gum also has multiple benefits such as dislodging unwanted food particles from between the teeth, freshening breath. Chewing gum is also shown to stimulate the flow of saliva, simply due to the act of chewing. In addition to the above suggestions, it would be a good idea to add a little extra moisture into the air. With these cooler months most have either tuned up the furnace or threw an extra log on the fire. Heat takes moisture out of the air and believe it or not, this affects our oral health also by causing dry mouth. Adding a humidifier to your home décor during the months when we crank up the heat may not be a bad idea. Your mouth will thank You.
Don’t let stress ruin your holidays and certainly don’t let the symptoms of stress linger into the weeks or months to follow! The holidays are a time to celebrate but don’t put your health on the back burner because your mouth will suffer the consequences long after the tree is down and lights are packed away. Schedule a post-holiday dental visit and start the New Year off with a happy healthy beginning.

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