Poor Oral Hygiene
Being under extreme stress may affect your mood and cause you to skip oral hygiene habits such as flossing and brushing.
If you don’t take care of your mouth, your teeth and overall oral health can suffer. If you already have gum disease, skipping daily hygiene may worsen the problem. If your mouth is in relatively good health, falling down on brushing, flossing, and rinsing can lead to gum disease or increase your risk of cavities.
When under stress, you may also develop unhealthy eating habits, such as snacking on large amounts of sugary foods or drinks. These habits increase the risk for tooth decay and other problems.
Just reminding yourself of the importance of hygiene and healthy eating may help. Boosting or resuming your exercise routine can help you relieve stress and feel energized enough to tend to your oral hygiene and cook healthier meals. Exercise will also boost your immune system — and that, too, is good for your oral health.
Stress can cause an increase in dental plaque, even when the high stress levels are short term. That’s according to a study that evaluated people who cared for loved ones with dementia and who experienced stress.
Long-term, the stress these caregivers felt boosted their risk of bleeding gums, or gingivitis, which can progress to serious gum disease.
Stress can lead to depression. And depressed patients, according to recent research, have twice the risk of an unfavorable outcome from gum disease treatment compared to those who aren’t depressed.
You can’t make depression or the stress disappear, of course. But experts say that learning healthy coping strategies can help reduce the risk of gum problems getting worse. Healthy coping is “problem-focused” with active and practical strategies to deal with the stress and depression, experts say.
Remember, eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and good oral hygiene help reduce your risks of periodontal disease. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss daily. Antibacterial mouth rinses also help reduce plaque-causing bacteria.
Excess stress may give you a headache, a stomachache, or just a feeling of being “on edge.” But too much stress could also be doing a number on your mouth, teeth, gums, and overall health.
The potential fallout from stress and anxiety that can affect your oral health includes:
- Mouth sores, including canker sores and cold sores
- Clenching of teeth and teeth grinding (bruxism)
- Poor oral hygiene and unhealthy eating routines
- Periodontal (gum) disease or worsening of existing periodontal disease
So how can you prevent these oral health problems?
Canker sores — small ulcers with a white or grayish base and bordered in red — appear inside the mouth, sometimes in pairs or even greater numbers. Although experts aren’t sure what causes them — it could be immune system problems, bacteria, or viruses — they do think that stress, as well as fatigue and allergies, can increase the risk of getting them. Canker sores are not contagious.
Most canker sores disappear in a week to 10 days. For relief from the irritation, try over-the-counter topical anesthetics. To reduce irritation, don’t eat spicy, hot foods or foods with a high acid content, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits.
Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that often appear on or around the lips, but can also crop up under the nose or around the chin area.
Emotional upset can trigger an outbreak. So can a fever, a sunburn, or skin abrasion.
Like canker sores, fever blisters often heal on their own in a week or so. Treatment is available, including over-the-counter remedies and prescription antiviral drugs. Ask your doctor or dentist if you could benefit from either. It’s important to start treatment as soon as you notice the cold sore forming.
Stress may make you clench and grind your teeth — during the day or at night, and often unconsciously. Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism.
If you already clench and grind your teeth, stress could make the habit worse. And, grinding your teeth can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet.
See your doctor and ask what can be done for the clenching and grinding. Your dentist may recommend a night guard, worn as you sleep, or another appliance to help you stop or minimize the actions.
An abscessed tooth is a painful infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. It’s most commonly caused by severe tooth decay. Other causes of tooth abscess are trauma to the tooth, such as when it is broken or chipped, and gingivitis or gum disease.
These problems can cause openings in the tooth enamel, which allows bacteria to infect the center of the tooth (called the pulp). The infection may also spread from the root of the tooth to the bones supporting the tooth.
What are the symptoms of an abscessed tooth?
A toothache that is severe and continuous and results in gnawing or throbbing pain or sharp or shooting pain are common symptoms of an abscessed tooth. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain when chewing
- Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Foul smell to the breath
- Swollen neck glands
- General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
- Redness and swelling of the gums
- Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw
- An open, draining sore on the side of the gum
If the root of the tooth dies as a result of infection, the toothache may stop. However, this doesn’t mean the infection has healed; the infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue. Therefore, if you experience any of the above listed symptoms, it is important to see a dentist even if the pain subsides.
How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
Your dentist will probe your teeth with a dental instrument. If you have an abscessed tooth, you will feel pain when the tooth is tapped by your dentist’s probe. Your dentist will also ask you if your pain increases when you bite down or when you close your mouth tightly. In addition, your dentist may suspect an abscessed tooth because your gums may be swollen and red.
Your dentist may also take X-Rays to look for erosion of the bone around the abscess.
Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Eleven years after quitting, former smokers’ likelihood of having periodontal (gum) disease was not significantly different from people who never smoked.
Even reducing the amount you smoke appears to help. One study found that smokers who reduced their smoking habit to less than half a pack a day had only three times the risk of developing gum disease compared with nonsmokers, which was significantly lower than the six times higher risk seen in those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day. Another study published in the Journal of the AmericanDental Association found that the mouth lesion leukoplakia completely resolved within 6 weeks of quitting in 97.5% of patients who used smokeless tobacco products.
Some statistics from the American Cancer Society present some other sobering reasons to quit smoking. They state that:
- About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.
- About 37% of patients who persist in smoking after apparent cure of their cancer will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.
Smoking can cause dry socket, a painful condition when a blood clot dislodges after a tooth extraction. The sucking motion of cigarette smoking can pull the clot from the hole in your gum. Also, the chemicals in cigarettes prevent your body from healing quickly. When you smoke, you inhale harmful toxins that decrease your supply of red blood cells to the wound. When having a tooth removed, it’s best to avoid smoking both before and after the procedure.
You probably already know how important regular dental visits are for keeping your teeth and gums in good shape — besides brushing and flossing, a biannual checkup might be the best thing you can do for your oral health. But what you might not know is that there’s a strong relationship between your oral health and your overall health, so taking good care of your mouth is a big part of taking care of your whole body.
What to Expect
A typical checkup and dental cleaning appointment involves a careful inspection of your mouth, teeth and gums, looking for any signs of gum disease, loose or broken teeth, a damaged tooth filling or tooth decay.
Dental X-rays will likely be taken. Some exams may include an examination of your head and neck, your bite and the movement of your jaw.
Your teeth will also be thoroughly cleaned, polished and flossed, leaving them fresh and gleaming.
Thinking Outside the Mouth
The benefits of maintaining that wholesome smile are plain to see, boosting confidence and improving your overall sense of well-being. But a healthy mouth is good for you in other ways, too.
Bacteria from untreated gum disease can actually spread infection to other parts of your body. Pregnant women may be at particular risk. If necessary, your dentist may ask you to return more frequently for gum disease treatment.
Also, some non-dental conditions have symptoms that appear in the mouth. A dental examination can reveal signs of vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis or more serious conditions such as diabetes or oral cancer.
Finally, a regular checkup can even be good for your pocketbook. Identifying and treating minor problems like cavities early on can spare you the time and expense of more complicated dentistry procedures such as a tooth extraction or root canal.
Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus, also known as yeast. Candida infection is not limited to the mouth; it can occur in other parts of the body as well, causing diaper rash in infants or vaginal yeast infections in women.
Thrush can affect anyone, though it occurs most often in babies and toddlers, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
What causes thrush?
Small amounts of the candida fungus are present in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin of most healthy people and are normally kept in check by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. However, certain illnesses, stress, or medications can disturb the delicate balance, causing the fungus candida to grow out of control, causing thrush.
Medications that upset the balance of microorganisms in the mouth and may cause thrush include corticosteroids, antibiotics, and birth control pills. Illnesses or medical situations that make candida infection more likely to develop include uncontrolled diabetes, HIV infection, cancer, dry mouth, or pregnancy (caused by the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy). People who smoke or wear dentures that don’t fit properly also are at increased risk for thrush. In addition, babies can pass the infection to their mothers during breast-feeding.
A key to implant success is the quantity and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. The upper back jaw has traditionally been one of the most difficult areas to successfully place dental implants due to insufficient bone quantity and quality and the close proximity to the sinus. If you’ve lost bone in that area due to reasons such as periodontal disease or tooth loss, you may be left without enough bone to place implants.
Sinus augmentation can help correct this problem by raising the sinus floor and developing bone for the placement of dental implants. Several techniques can be used to raise the sinus and allow for new bone to form. In one common technique, an incision is made to expose the bone. Then a small circle is cut into the bone. This bony piece is lifted into the sinus cavity, much like a trap door, and the space underneath is filled with bone graft material. Your periodontist can explain your options for graft materials, which can regenerate lost bone and tissue.
Finally, the incision is closed and healing is allowed to take place. Depending on your individual needs, the bone usually will be allowed to develop for about four to 12 months before implants can be placed. After the implants are placed, an additional healing period is required. In some cases, the implant can be placed at the same time the sinus is augmented.
Sinus augmentation has been shown to greatly increase your chances for successful implants that can last for years to come. Many patients experience minimal discomfort during this procedure.
The ADA recommends the following for good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Tooth decay–causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. This helps remove the sticky film on teeth called plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
Antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes reduce the bacterial count and stop bacterial activity in dental plaque, which can cause gingivitis, an early, reversible form of periodontal (gum) disease. ADA-Accepted antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes have substantiated these claims by demonstrating significant reductions in plaque and gingivitis. Fluoride mouth rinses help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Clinical studies have demonstrated that use of a fluoride mouth rinse and fluoride toothpaste can provide extra protection against tooth decay over that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone. Fluoride mouth rinse is not recommended for children age six or younger because they may swallow the rinse. Consumers should always check the manufacturer’s label for precautions and age recommendations and talk with their dentist about the use of fluoride mouth rinse.
Talk to your dentist about what types of oral care products will be most effective for you. The ADA Seal on a product is your assurance that it has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. Look for the ADA Seal on fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators, mouth rinses and other oral hygiene products.
Women who consume high volumes of folic acid found in vitamin B from vegetables and some fruits are less likely to suffer from mouth cancer. A sample of 87,000 nurses were followed for 30 years from 1976 by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre and Harvard School of Public Health.
Women who drank a high volume of alcohol and had low folic acid intake were three times more likely to develop mouth cancer than those who drank high volumes of alcohol but had high volumes of folic acid in their diet. Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for mouth cancer and those who drink to excess are four times more likely to be diagnosed.
This is the first time that folic acid intake has been shown to affect the risk of the disease. Alcohol leads to a reduction in folic acid metabolism by creating acetaldehyde which leads to a reduction of folic acid in the body.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘Rates of mouth cancer in women have been increasing for many years as a result of changed social habits with more women smoking and drinking.
‘This new research could offer a method to reduce this by looking at the folic acid intake and increasing fruit and vegetables containing folic acid in the diet.
“In the past studies have tended to focus on males, as they are twice as likely to suffer from the disease. While this study focuses on women we know that men also benefit from the protective value of increased fruit and vegetables.”
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is essential to an individual’s health by helping to make and maintain new cells.
Pregnant women are advised to supplement their intake of folic acid, to ensure a healthy development of the baby. Folic acid is found in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, beans, peas and lentils and is added to bread. Fruit juices, broccoli and brussel sprouts contain smaller amounts.
An unhealthy diet has been linked with around a third of mouth cancer cases.
Recent research has also shown that an increase in food such as eggs and fish that contain omega 3, and nuts, seeds and brown rice, which are high in fibre, can help decrease the risks.
Mouth cancer survival is poor with only around half of cases surviving for 5 years and this is due to late presentation.
Early warning signs to look out for include a mouth ulcer that has not healed within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual swelling or lumps in the mouth.
These are all signs that you should get your dentist or doctor to check you out as soon as possible.