Managing stress is an ongoing challenge. Hectic work schedules, moving to a new apartment or home, and personal changes with family can all add up and affect your health.
Although it’s not always easy, it’s important to prioritize taking care of yourself mentally. Stress, anxiety and even some mental disorders can affect your body physically, as well. For example, did you know that stress and anxiety can affect your teeth?
The most common way stress affects your oral health is by causing you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth. If you experience headaches or jaw and tooth pain when you wake up in the morning, you may have developed a negative nighttime habit. Some people can grind loud enough that a nearby loved one can hear you while you sleep.
Clenching and grinding habits can wear teeth down over time, lead to damage on restorations, cause cracks to form, lead to loss of height of the teeth, and even recession of the gums and tooth sensitivity. If you think you may have this nighttime habit, a night guard and smart brushing habits are the best ways to help protect your teeth.
How to Choose a Night Guard
Choosing the right night guard can vary from person to person based on how much you clench and grind your teeth and even your budget. Luckily there are a few options available out there. Here are the three places to find the right night guard for you.
From Your Dentist
In-office night guards are made at any dentist’s office from impressions taken of your mouth, which means they are custom-fitted to your teeth and bite. Your dentist can help with the fit and can make adjustments as needed. These tend to be the most expensive option, but it’s worth it in the long run. Damage caused by clenching and grinding can become very expensive.
When you purchase a night guard online, an at-home impression kit is sent to you directly. You then make your own impressions at your convenience and send it back to the company. These guards are custom fit to your mouth, and you save an office visit. These night guards tend to be more cost-effective than in-office night guards. But if your symptoms are more advanced, you may still need to visit your dentist.
Over the Counter
Nightguards in stock sizes are often available at big box stores, pharmacies, and online. ”Stock size” means it may not be the best fit for your teeth, so it may be more uncomfortable and not help protect your teeth as much as a custom night guard. However, over-the-counter night guards will still help with your clenching and grinding, and they can be a more affordable option!
Improved Brushing Habits
Good brushing habits can be hard to maintain when your stress feels gets overwhelming. If you find yourself skipping taking care of your teeth before bed, I have a few recommendations that could help:
- Brush and floss earlier in your day and before you feel too tired, such as after eating dinner rather than right before bed. While this isn’t as good as brushing before bed, especially if you snack, it is much better than not brushing at all. You want to avoid leaving anything stuck to your teeth overnight.
- Use an electric toothbrush. An electric toothbrush not only helps with time constraints, but it can also help clean harder to reach areas. The rotation and movement of the spin-brush head can be more efficient at removing plaque. It’s still recommended you brush for two minutes, but electric brushes do help get the most out of the time spent brushing — some models even come with a two-minute timer to help you out
Overall health encompasses so many factors, from keeping healthy with balanced nutrition in our diets, to exercising, getting enough sleep, taking time to take care of our mental health, and keeping our immune system strong.
Stress is specifically challenging and difficult to manage, especially when you’re not always aware of how it can affect you. Stress can easily begin to seep into many aspects of your busy day. But being mindful of how mental, physical and oral health are all connected can help to manage the inevitable stress that comes your way.
Still not sure if you’re grinding or clenching your jaw? Ask your dental hygienist at your next Virtudent appointment! She’s happy to help!