The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about tremendous changes in our lifestyle and daily routine. Those who were so busy and couldn't even think of getting locked in a room for atleast five minutes are now forced to spend days and weeks indoors. Lockdown periods should be approached positively, otherwise they may lead to immense mental stress, agony and depression. Stress affects every system of our body, the stomatognathic system or the oral cavity is not an exception. Let's have a look at the stress-related dental problems:
Bruxism or teeth grinding
This is often found in people with sleep disorders and can often lead to severe consequences. It may result in frequent grinding and finally hypersensitivity of the teeth and abrasion. In the long run it may even cause jaw joint problems.
Frequent oral canker sores or apthous ulcers are often a product of excessive stress. It may affect movable oral mucosa such as the inside of cheek, tongue, inside of lip and so on either as a single entity or as multiple lesions. These are very painful and often become a nightmare and last for 10-14 days.
Dry mouth or Xerostomia is common due to reduced saliva production during stressful periods. This will inturn lead to burning sensation of the tongue and inner surface of cheek. These burning effects will get pronounced in diabetic patients as well as in females who have reached menopause. Two other results of dry mouth are higher incidence of dental decay due to less saliva and bad breath.
Jaw joint pain
Stress often leads to frequent irritation to the temporomandibular joint and this jaw joint disorders often open ways to neuromuscular dental problems as well. Recent studies show that even shoulder and neck pain have some relation with uncorrected jaw joint issues.
Periodontal or Gum diseases
Stress often weakens the immunity and makes the body vulnerable to infections. Various studies from the University of North Carolina and Michigan have proved that stress can aggravate gum disease.
Tips to tackle
» Reduce mental stress by getting engaged in various activities. Spend more time doing your favourite hobbies such as reading or listening to music.
» Ensure that you are doing adequate exercise, getting exposed to sunlight and eating a well balanced diet.
» Sleep for atleast 6-8 hours a day as some of the problems occur due to sleep disorders also.
» Refrain from vigorous brushing of the teeth using gel type toothpastes.The proper practice should be to use a soft or medium tooth brush with flexible handle, a cream form toothpaste and your movement should be vibratory strokes in up and down motion for three minutes each in morning and night. Brushing twice daily and using interdental aids such as dental floss or interdental brushes is the key to effective oral health.
» Drink at least 10-12 glasses of water per day as dehydration will worsen the bad breath condition.
» Share your dental problems with your dentist and avoid self-medication
» Take multivitamin tablets or topical antiseptic gels as per your dentists' advice in apthous ulcers.
» Avoid smoking and reduce alcohol intake
» Avoid touching teeth unnecessarily and refrain from using fingernails, toothpicks, safety pins, etc. to remove the dislodged food particles between teeth. Always use a dental floss or interdental brush for that purpose.
» Take your regular medications for systemic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, etc. properly.
(Dr. Manikandan.G.R is the Convenor, Council for Dental Health & Awareness, Indian Dental Association, Thiruvananthapuram)