Distance Learning and Back-To-School is Stressful for Parents.
Your Dentist Can Tell!
It’s been a year like no other. To say that a majority of parents find homeschooling, distance-learning or the uncertainty of going to school “stressful and challenging” during the pandemic may be an understatement. Trying to do their own jobs while helping children with classwork has become one of the most trying aspects of the pandemic. Not knowing schedules to plan is another.
Nearly half of parents of children under age 18 say their stress levels related to the coronavirus pandemic are high, with managing their kids’ online learning a significant source of stress for many, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
Stress in America 2020 Stress in the Time of Coronavirus, Volume 1, was conducted by The Harris Poll from April 24 to May 4, 2020, and surveyed online 3,013 adults age 18+ who reside in the United States. They conducted follow-up surveys to track developments. The survey found that 46 percent of parents say their average stress level related to the coronavirus pandemic is high (between 8 and 10 on a 10-point scale where 1 means “little or no stress” and 10 means “a great deal of stress”). Only 28% of adults who don’t have children under the age of 18 report similar levels of stress. In fact, 71 percent of parents say managing distance/online learning for their children is a significant source of stress.
Dentists can see signs of stress
And guess what, your dentist can tell. Signs of stress are showing up in the dentist’s office. Among the most common conditions that dentists see during your regular checkup are orofacial pain, teeth grinding, temporomandibular disorders (TMD), mouth sores, or gum disease. If you’re feeling tense or anxious, you should keep a watchful eye for signs of the following stress-related disorders.
Grinding your Teeth
People are often not aware that they grind their teeth, it’s important to know the signs and to seek treatment if you suspect you may be excessively grinding your teeth. Some signs of bruxism include:
- The tips of the teeth appear flat
- Tooth enamel is rubbed off, causing extreme sensitivity
- Tongue indentations
Bruxism is the technical term for grinding teeth and clenching jaws and it can be caused by stress and anxiety. Nervous tension, anger, and frustration can cause people to start showing the signs of bruxism without even knowing it.
Even if you haven’t done serious damage to your jaw or teeth, tell your dentist if you are concerned about this and we can recommend treatment such as a nightguard to protect your teeth from damage.
Cracked Teeth and Fillings
When people are stressed, they clinch their jaws. This can lead to cracked teeth or fillings. Teeth are naturally brittle, and everyone gets some wear and tear from chewing, or regular use. But they can take only so much pressure before they break. In fact, USA Today recently reported that dentists have reported a huge spike in cracked teeth since the Covid pandemic hit.
Stressful situations can aggravate Temporomandibular disorders or better known TMD by causing overuse of jaw muscles, specifically clenching or grinding teeth, as with bruxism. TMD refers to a group of conditions that affects the jaw joint and the related muscles used in moving the jaw and neck. Stress is thought to be a factor in many TMDs. But even if you aren’t seeing signs on your teeth, you may still experience other symptoms, such as headaches in the morning, jaw joint pain, or popping and clicking of the jaw.
Depending on your symptoms, your dentist may also recommend specific treatments such as adjustment, including orthodontic treatment, to correct teeth alignment that may be magnifying orofacial pain.
Studies at State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Michigan found that emotional factors played a significant role in the development of the adult periodontal disease. Researchers discovered that the severity of gum disease increased with the amount of stress experienced in a patient’s previous 12 months. Moreover, the researchers found that those at greatest risk for gum disease were those who were highly emotional in dealing with financial problems – unfortunately also a side effect of Covid-19 as so many businesses struggle to cope.
Your mouth’s first defense against bacteria is saliva, and without it, there is an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infection. Unfortunately, dry mouth can be caused by stress as well as being a side effect of some medications used to treat stress and depression.
Canker sores occur inside the mouth and are not contagious. They often are triggered by trauma such as biting your cheek. However, canker sores may also be triggered by stress. According to a report in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s clinical, peer-reviewed journal, studies have shown that students have a high prevalence of canker sores, yet the sores appear less frequently during breaks and after graduation when stress levels are lower.
Considering how messed up schedules and routines have been, it is not surprising that some have neglected their oral health routine and made some unhealthy lifestyle choices. These conditions paired with issues such as dry mouth increase your risk of tooth decay.
Stress-free Oral Health Routines
As in any crisis, calm, rational, informed behavior can help you and those you lovemanage stress and maintain physical, mental, and oral health. You can do your part by managing your stress levels by removing as many stressors from your environment as possible. But of course, we know that this is often easier said than done. Try to balance this hectic new normal with exercise or yoga, counseling or self-care. Whatever works best for you.
One thing you can control is your oral health. It’s important to continue to practice good oral hygiene. People who are dealing with stress tend to compromise their oral care. So you should continue to brush twice a day, floss every day, and have your gums and teeth regularly checked by your dentist.
Take the stress out of your regular checkups and schedule your entire family’s regular dentist visit ahead of time. Call us at 405-857-6453 or -even easier- schedule online.