It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year….

Although Your Teeth and Jaw May be Singing Something Different.
17.6 million Americans report that the holidays are their most stressful time of year and it isn’t surprising. You run around spending money you really shouldn’t be spending, drinking and eating things that aren’t on your diet, and you’re keeping those commitments of spending time with people you probably would prefer to avoid.

Dr. Barotz here. Most of you are probably aware how stress can wreck havoc on your body, but you may not realize that it can also ruin your teeth. Stress can cause problems like bruxism – the medical term for teeth grinding or clenching, and to the increased production of cortisol, a hormone which is released by the body during stress that can advance periodontal disease (gum disease). Periodontal disease, left untreated, can ultimately lead to bone and tooth loss. In fact it is the major reason why adults loose their teeth.

If bruxism isn’t treated, it can result in broken or chipped teeth, the need for dental restorations, pain in jaw muscles, tension-related headaches and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which joins the jaw to the head.

A clenched jaw can exert up to 300 pounds of pressure. That is a lot of pressure on your teeth, especially if you have cavities or old crowns or fillings. Over time, arthritis, inflammation and degenerative changes can occur in the jaw joint. The disc in the joint can shift and then causes clicking or popping sounds. It can also “lock” out of place, making it impossible to open the mouth more than an inch or so.

TMJ disorder can mimic migraine headaches, earaches, sinus infections and tooth abscesses. It can cause dizziness, ringing in the ears and muscle pain that radiates down the neck and shoulders. Women have more TMJ problems than men — possibly because the jaw muscle bulks up in men.

If you feel you have developed bruxism or TMJ, get in to see your dentist. Have your dentist do a complete exam to see if you are grinding your teeth or if may have periodontal disease. The most common treatment for TMJ is a night guard. Barotz Dental uses the NTI device, which is smaller, custom-fitted for your bite and more comfortable than the regular mouth guards. You can find over-the-counter mouth guards, but they generally don’t last long and really offer you little protection.

If you are one of the millions of American who has periodontal disease, there are some amazing new developments that can help save your teeth. In fact, just this month Barotz Dental announced that we are now offering a new state-of-the-art laser gum therapy (one of two practices in Denver) that not only treats gum disease but can regrow lost bone and tissue! The results are amazing!

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes the holidays add to an already stressful time in your life, and if you aren’t taking measures to decrease that stress, you’re on the road for even more anxiety by developing dental problems.

The following table lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms

Memory problems
Inability to concentrate
Poor judgment
Seeing only the negative
Anxious or racing thoughts
Constant worrying
Irritability or short temper
Agitation, inability to relax
Feeling overwhelmed
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Depression or general unhappiness
Aches and pains
Diarrhea or constipation
Nausea, dizziness
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
Loss of sex drive
Frequent colds
Eating more or less
Sleeping too much or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

While you may feel like you can’t control the amount of stress in your life, you can control how you respond to it. The first step is to take charge. You have to take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your relationships and how you deal with problems. Stress management is a lot like the Serenity Prayer in that you need to learn how to change the situations that are causing you stress, change your reaction to those situations you can’t change, and know the difference.
Give yourself a gift this holiday and try to make time for rest and relaxation. It’s important that you take care of you.

About BarotzDental

Dr. Charles S. Barotz is a 1980 graduate of Georgetown University School of Dentistry and has dedicated his life to provide you with the best that dentistry has to offer. Dr. Barotz is continually educating himself and his staff with the newest dental techniques and approaches, in order to provide you with advanced, state of the art, comfortable, personalized, and antiseptic dental care. Dr. Barotz has been published and lectures internationally on numerous subjects relating to excellence in dentistry.
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