In modern life, everyone is at least a little bit stressed all the time, and this can manifest itself in many different ways. For some people, this low hum of anxiety is very manageable and reveals itself through constant foot-tapping or perpetually chewed nails. For others, it’s their teeth that bear the brunt of it. In fact, for many, their stress can affect their teeth so much that they actually end up needing a root canal. How so? Today, we discuss how stress can affect your smile and what you can do about it.
Stress, Your Teeth, and Root Canals
One of the most common responses the body has to stress is teeth grinding. Most people do it unconsciously, some even while they are asleep, which is a condition known as bruxism. Bruxism is actually so common that the American Sleep Association estimates that it affects about 10% of the U.S. population every single night.
Over time, teeth grinding and bruxism can severely wear down the enamel, causing the teeth to become weak and more sensitive. If left untreated, the teeth can eventually crack, exposing the sensitive dental pulp housed inside it. With the pulp exposed, it’s much easier for it to become infected by outside bacteria, which can cause the mother of all toothaches. The only way to treat this kind of problem?
You guessed it, a root canal.
There have even been cases where stress has led to severe dental pain even though the teeth were relatively fine. This can happen when the muscles in the neck or upper back become so tense that they affect the jaw, and this can easily cause pain to radiate directly into the teeth. Many patients have ended up getting root canals due to this kind of dental pain even though it really had nothing to do with their teeth!
What You Can Do About It
So like we said, everyone is a little stressed, but how can you make sure it won’t put you on the road to a root canal?
If you grind your teeth (or suspect that you do), you should contact a dentist as soon as you can for treatment. In the case of bruxism, they can provide you with a custom-made mouthpiece called a nightguard that will keep your teeth protected while you sleep.
Or, if your stress is a little more generalized, you may consider engaging in any number of stress-reducing activities. This can include just taking a few minutes each day to sit and enjoy some deep breathes, or in reference to the situation we referred to earlier, getting a relaxing massage to make sure muscle tension in one part of your body isn’t affecting you somewhere else.
All in all, while life might be stressful, it doesn’t have to impact your smile. Be sure to see your dentist as soon as you experience any dental pain or think you might be grinding your teeth, and be conscious to lessen the stress in your life however you can. With that, you should be able to keep your smile in one piece and avoid needing a root canal for as long as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Mark Medaugh is a family, reconstructive, and cosmetic dentist currently practicing in Belchertown, MA. To learn more about how stress can affect your teeth and how to protect them, he can be contacted through his website or by phone at (413) 323-4335.