The Holiday Grind

It’ s that time of year again! As we are bustling about getting ourselves prepared for the upcoming holiday season, listening to songs declaring it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and trying to juggle our normal hectic lives and the new demands that shopping, baking and parties are putting on us, some of us may be feeling less than jolly. Even if you are not quite ready to declare, “Bah-Humbug”, do you realize the effects that added stress could be having on your oral health?

Stress has been linked to ailments such as canker sores, teeth grinding, TMJ (pain in the jaw joint) from clenching, dry mouth, and gum inflammation.  Your body reacts to chronic stress by producing the stress hormone in your body called cortisol.  This cortisol weakens your immune system, and your weak immune system allows plaque’s harmful bacteria to invade your gums, making your food choices and good oral hygiene even more important.  

Everyone reacts to stress differently. Two of the most common stress-coping mechanisms that we see during the holidays are nighttime grinding or clenching as well as stress eating, or indulging on holiday candies, cookies, and sweets.  When we clench or grind our teeth, we exert immense pressure between the teeth, and ultimately tooth enamel wears off and gums recede.  As for our overindulgence on holiday treats, the high sugar content creates a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth, and this bacteria produces the tooth decaying acid which causes cavities. Even if you avoid the obviously sugary treats like egg nog or hot chocolate, the extra glass of wine, or crackers and cheese can have the same effects. Wine is erosive, and the high carbohydrate content in wine and other party foods can be a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Beware of foods like peanut brittle, or biting hard candies, as it is easy to crack a tooth while eating them.

It’s important to remember not to neglect yourself or your oral health this holiday season.  Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in the holidays, your commitments, your family, and your friends that you lose sight of what is really important….you and your health. Stick to your normal healthy diet and exercise program as much as possible, and remember to take some time for yourself. Dr. Glass and his staff would like to wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season!

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