Stressed holiday woman 1When the stores start putting up holiday decorations and blasting holiday tunes through the speakers, what’s your natural reaction? An anxiety-riddled smile? Quickened pulse? Downright dread?

While the holiday season brings about a great deal of joy, fun and festivity, for many of us, it also means increased levels of stress. And that stress is more apparent in women. The American Psychological Association reports that 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men experience higher-than-normal stress levels during the holidays. Only a quarter of women surveyed said they were able to relax over the holiday season. The APA determined that in order to cope with stress, women most frequently turn to food (41 percent) and drinking (28 percent) as an escape, both of which take a toll on oral health.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

If you’d like to keep ALL your teeth this holiday season, pay particular attention to your oral health routine and what you’re consuming.

Both stress and the simple reality of numerous holiday get-togethers tend to cause people to eat more sugary treats and drink more alcoholic beverages than usual. Busy schedules and getting out of the normal routine also mean a lot of patients stray from their usual good oral hygiene habits. Those basic habits are the very things that could counteract the effects of more sweets and alcohol.

More sugar means more bacteria and acid in the mouth, both of which can lead to cavities. Pay particular attention to things like sticky fruit cakes, candy canes and chewy gum drops, all of which tend to sit for long periods of time on your teeth. If you can’t immediately brush after eating holiday treats, at least drink water or chew sugarless gum to help boost saliva flow and wash away bacteria.

Christmas cupcakes with vanilla frosting and red and green sprinkles on rustic table. Shallow depth of field. Sparkling holiday lights background. Vintage filter effects.

Whether you’re a red or a white fan, wine’s high acidity levels can also wreak havoc on tooth enamel. Drinking water in between glasses can help cleanse teeth of the acid. Thanks to their high acid content, both diet and full-sugar soda are also prime offenders when it comes to eroding tooth enamel. Wine, soda, coffee and tea can also stain teeth, leaving you with a less-than-white smile for the holidays.

It certainly pays to be mindful of what you drink and eat this time of year, but that’s only part of the equation in protecting your oral health.

The most stressful time of the year

While it may seem reasonable to put off seeing your dentist around the holidays when your to-do list is already jam packed, don’t. The overall health of your mouth is significantly impacted by stress, so seeing your dentist when your stress levels are elevated can be key to keeping your smile merry and bright.

The Journal of Periodontology reports that short-term psychological stress is linked to elevated plaque levels in the mouth. Physical stress can lead to gum disease, and when chronic stress begins to affect the entire immune system, infections like periodontitis can be inevitable. Beyond just bleeding gums, periodontal disease can affect the integrity of the teeth and the bone that supports them. The good news is that gum disease is preventable and, when needed, periodontal disease treatment is possible, excellent reasons to keep those dental appointments around the holidays. At Caffaratti Dental Group, we are experienced in gum disease treatment in its early through advanced stages.

Holiday stress is often a trigger for those who clench or grind their teeth, which can happen, day or night, without you even realizing it. If you start to experience increased facial or jaw pain as your stress levels increase, making a dental appointment is the first step in determining whether bruxism is the cause. You may also notice symptoms of tooth sensitivity, worn or chipped teeth, or loose teeth. We can often minimize the negative effects on your teeth by customizing a mouth guard to be worn at night.

Bruxism, and the resulting issues with TMJ headaches, can even be related to sleep disorders like sleep apnea. For many people, increased stress leads to decreased sleep. While not always a cause for concern in the short-term, long-term lack of sleep, feelings of daytime fatigue and irritability, and snoring may indicate sleep disorders. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to serious medical conditions like stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even death. If you have concerns that you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep disorders, take our online quiz here to asses your risk. Our trained sleep-disorder dentists can diagnose sleep disorders and assess your sleep health with a consultation and our at-home sleep test. We can determine the treatment method that will be most effective for your overall sleep health, which could be our highly effective oral appliance therapy.

Have a holly jolly Christmas

Perhaps the first step for all of us in truly enjoying this holiday season is to decrease our levels of stress. That could mean exercising more often, focusing on eating a balanced diet, saying no to additional activities or responsibilities, seeking support from family, friends or a therapist, or simply making regular time for yourself. Put maintaining your oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and keeping regular dentist appointments and getting adequate sleep at the top of your list. If you are suffering from red or bleeding gums, headaches from teeth grinding or poor sleep, give us a call today at (775) 204-9020 to treat those symptoms and help you enjoy the holidays to the fullest.