Mental health has arguably the greatest influence over our health and it is so important to keep it as your highest priority any time of year.
Stress can impact your oral health because the mouth is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and any disruption in the balance of the jaw can cause tooth and jaw-related problems. If you are physically stressed via poor posture, overly vigorous exercise, dysfunctional breathing or previous injury, the muscles in and around the neck and jaw tighten and go into spasm. This creates a pain pattern that can cause you to clench and grind your teeth (bruxism). Bruxism can lead to headaches, neckaches, jaw aches, cracked teeth, sensitive teeth and poor sleep quality.
Stress can also impact your teeth if you are emotionally stressed with the rigours of everyday life. We are more connected and wired than ever and this means there is little downtime for our minds. Emotionally stressed people can also clench and grind their teeth – even in the absence of physical stress.
Dysfunctional breathing (mouth breathing at night) can also cause stress-related issues in the mouth. People that mouth breathe are more likely to have gum disease which contributes to an increased inflammatory load on the body. The flow-on effect is that these people are more susceptible to a range of systemic inflammatory conditions that are linked to gum disease like heart problems and diabetes.
Mouth breathers are also more likely to have dental decay because they dry out the saliva which has a protective effect for the teeth and gums.
Mouth breathing will also enlarge the tonsils, make the sinuses more inflamed and therefore leave you more susceptible to snoring, sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea. This is a vicious cycle as these conditions make you more stressed e.g. via an increase in blood pressure while you sleep. If you aren’t breathing well during sleep, you won’t be rested and your risk of anxiety and depression increases.
Poor sleep can also make you choose foods that high in refined sugars. In search of short term energy, we spike our insulin levels with these foods only to come crashing back down. This cycle repeats and this energy ‘roller coaster’ plays havoc with our brain. Eating healthy, natural foods that provide slow and consistent energy are the best way to avoid this issue.