Life can be full of frustrations, demands, deadlines, and inconveniences. For lots of people, stress is a way of life. The problem is that when you’re constantly stressed out, your health can pay the price. There are many health conditions that are caused or worsen due to high stress levels, but did you know that your mouth may be affected in the form of teeth grinding?
What is teeth grinding?
The condition of grinding or gnashing your teeth together is called bruxism, and often includes clenching your jaw. It commonly happens while sleeping, so that you may not even realize you’re doing it. Sometimes a sleeping partner hears it, or your dentist may recognize the signs of unusual wear on your teeth.
What does my stress level have to do with it?
Teeth grinding has been linked to stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that people who are stressed from daily life and don’t have adequate coping methods are more likely to grind their teeth. Experts say that both adults and children facing stress sometimes cope by grinding their teeth.
How does teeth grinding affect me?
Grinding your teeth has more negative effects than you might think. It often causes headaches, earaches, and sleep problems. It can cause chipped, loose, cracked, or sensitive teeth. Tooth enamel can suffer excessive wear, and gum tissue may be damaged. Teeth grinding also often causes a painful jaw disorder of the temporomadibular joint, commonly called TMJ.
What can I do about it?
Your dentist may recommend wearing an over-the-counter or custom mouthguard at night, to protect your teeth from further damage. Medications usually are not helpful, although a muscle relaxant before bed may help prevent jaw clenching. The ideal treatment is to try to reduce or eliminate stress that may be contributing to your teeth grinding. Relaxation therapy, stress management, corrective exercises, and counseling are some of the options that dentists suggest to help you remedy the problem.
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Many people find foods such as cheese, yogurt, and milk to be a very enjoyable part of their diet. Not only are some of these dairy items tasty and nutritious, did you know they can also help your teeth and gums? Studies show that consuming dairy products regularly can lower the occurrence of dental diseases. Let’s see which dairy items you should consider incorporating into your diet and why.
Reduce gum disease
The primary benefit of dairy to your dental health is lowering your risk of periodontal disease. Also known as gum disease, this condition affects roughly 75 percent of Americans at some level. It may be minor gingivitis or advanced periodontitis. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss, contribute to heart disease and stroke, and worsen diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis. Lactic acid is one of the key ingredients in many dairy items, and researchers believe that lactic acid is related to reducing gum disease.
Choose your dairy
Just because a food is identified as a dairy product, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely healthy for you. Here are some tips to help you choose the ideal foods and beverages for your dental health:
- Look for low fat and non-fat options.
- Choose white milk instead of flavored milk, such as chocolate. The added sugars can lead to tooth decay.
- Consider natural and organic products when possible.
- Select unsweetened yogurt without sugar or artificial sweeteners. A good alternative is Greek yogurt which you can add fruit or honey to create an appetizing, healthy snack.
Enjoy additional benefits
Avoiding gum disease isn’t the only benefit of eating dairy. It helps build strong teeth and bones, and is rich in vitamins that are good for your overall health. So the next time you get hungry, try some cheese or a glass of milk because these foods will not only satisfy your hunger but also keep you smiling.
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Your body is a little bit like a puzzle. It gives you clues to help you figure out what’s going on within your body. Did you know your mouth can give you hints about things that may be happening elsewhere in your body? Here’s a list of some of the signs your mouth can give you to pay attention to certain other aspects of your health.
Worn teeth and headache
If your teeth are showing extensive wear, you may be grinding your teeth. This would be even a stronger possibility if you’re also experiencing regular headaches, which can be caused by the muscle tension related to teeth grinding. This condition also indicates that you are likely under too much stress, and that you are unconsciously coping with it by grinding your teeth.
Gums covering teeth
If your gums begin to grow over your teeth and you are on medication, it may mean that your medication is at fault. Some medicines can cause your gums to overgrow, and the dosage needs to be adjusted.
An open sore in your mouth that doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks can be an indicator of oral cancer. Numbness and unexplained bleeding in your mouth are other signs. Smokers and people over age 60 are at the most risk, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect others too. See your dentist to make sure all is okay.
If your teeth begin to crack or wear extensively, you may have gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD). It’s a digestive disease that allows stomach acid to flow back into your food pipe and mouth. This acid can cause your teeth to deteriorate. Additional signs of GERD are acid reflux, heartburn, and dry mouth.
If you wear dentures, make sure you remove and clean them regularly. Inhaling food debris from your dentures that makes its way to your lungs can lead to pneumonia.
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The word cancer strikes fear and dismay in most people, and it’s no different when the diagnosis is oral cancer. Nearly 37,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease each year and about 8,000 succumb to it. You should know the risk factors and symptoms so that you can either avoid it completely, or catch it early enough that you’ll have the best chance of recovery.
Who is at risk?
Oral cancer is not contagious, but there are some activities that put you at higher risk for the disease. Both smoked and smokeless tobacco are linked to oral cancer, and the more you use tobacco the greater your risk becomes. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases your risk, and paired with tobacco use your risk is even higher. Sun exposure heightens your chances of developing cancer of the lip.
What are the symptoms?
Oral cancer patients may experience any of these signs of the disease:
- A sore in the mouth or throat that bleeds often and doesn’t heal within two weeks
- A thick area or lump in the cheek
- Patches in your mouth or on your lips that are red, white, or a mixture of the two
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty wearing your dentures
- A sore throat
- Tongue or mouth numbness
- Difficulty chewing, or moving your jaw or tongue
What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you notice any of these signs, visit your dentist right away to get screened for oral cancer. When diagnosed early, there is an 80 percent survival rate. Unfortunately many patients wait too long to see their dentist, and late-stage diagnosis is the reason for most oral cancer deaths.
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You’ve probably seen what coffee can do to a cup. Those brown stains that you see left on your cup are also sticking to your teeth. Coffee is especially hard on your teeth due to an ingredient called tannic acid, which gets into the grooves and pits of your tooth enamel and can stain it brown. Certainly the ideal way to stop the staining is to quit drinking the java, but that’s an unrealistic solution for many people. So what else can you do to save your pearly whites?
First, try and reduce the amount of coffee you drink. If you drink a lot of coffee, even cutting out one cup a day can lessen the dark stains on your teeth. Another suggestion is to drink your coffee in one or two sittings instead of sipping it all day long. Also, try lowering the temperature of your coffee. The hotter the coffee is, the more easily it can stain your teeth. Just letting it cool a couple of degrees can make a difference to your teeth.
After every cup of coffee you drink, rinse your mouth with room-temperature water. This will remove some of the staining elements before they have a chance to set in. The water also helps neutralize acids in your mouth, which will lower the bacteria in your mouth that can lead to cavities.
Use a straw
If you like iced coffee or tea, drink it with a straw so that the dark beverage doesn’t directly contact your front lower and upper teeth. Using a straw reduces your teeth’s exposure to liquids that can stain.
Whiten your teeth
Ask your dentist about professional whitening methods, as well as products you can try at home. There are even some brands of whitening toothpaste made especially for coffee drinkers.
Practice good hygiene
Brush your teeth several times a day, especially after drinking coffee. Flossing daily also helps prevent stains, and is important if you add sugar or cream to your cup of joe. See your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings, which can do a better job of removing stains and restoring your smile.
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Most people have friends or family who have had to deal with the disease cancer in some area of the body. Cancer can be described as uncontrollable cell growth that invades and damages surrounding tissue. Oral cancer often shows up as a persistent sore or growth in the mouth, but also includes cancers of the tongue, lips, cheeks, palate, throat, and sinuses. Like most cancers, it can be life threatening without early detection and treatment.
Common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Swelling, lumps, or rough spots on your lips, gums, or other mouth areas
- White or red patches in your mouth
- Numbness or tenderness in your mouth, neck, or face
- Unexplained bleeding in your mouth
- Sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in your throat
- Persistent sores in the mouth, neck or face that bleed easily and do not heal in two weeks
- Hoarseness or chronic sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, talking, or moving your jaw or tongue
- Substantial weight loss
Men are at twice as high risk for oral cancer than women, and men over 50 are at greatest risk. The biggest risk factors include any kind of smoking or using smokeless tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, or family history of cancer. However, it’s important to know that more than 25 percent of oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke or only drink alcohol occasionally.
Routine dental checkups include an examination for signs of oral cancer. A biopsy may be performed on any suspicious areas. Regular checkups are important so that tests can identify oral cancer early, before it can spread or progress.
Oral cancer is often treated similarly to other types of cancers. It may include surgery to remove the growth, followed by radiation or chemotherapy to destroy remaining cancer cells.
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