Holiday stress affects our oral health

By Maya Demchak, Staff Writer — The holidays are coming up fast. This means decorating, baking sweets, shopping, gift wrapping, family and…. stinky breath? Recent studies have shown that the holidays cause stress.

People feel stress year round, not just on the holidays, but the amount of stress, especially on women, increases drastically. Thirty Eight percent of people report feeling more stressed during the holidays. Forty Four percent of those people are women.

“It’s hard for most people to identify how much stress they’re experiencing and to what degree it’s affecting their body until they get sick,” said Dr. Kevin Sheu, managing dental consultant for Delta Dental.

Studies done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research, have shown that stress during the holidays can cause harmful side effects such as weight gain due to comfort eating, picking up sedentary habits and emotional mood swings. But these are normal reactions to stress, deteriorating oral health does not take first place on the long list of things to worry about during the holidays for most people.

Despite the lack of care for oral health people should be informed of the painful, and sometimes permanent damage done by holiday stress.

Canker sores are small, shallow, sores that grow on the inside of the mouth, specifically the soft tissue, like inside the lips, or on the gums. They are not contagious, and are not very serious, but can be painful. Trouble eating and talking are also reported symptoms of canker sores. The main cause of these sores is stress, and despite being a painful inconvenience, will eventually go away on their own in one, or two weeks.

Teeth grinding is also a side effect of stress and while teeth grinding from someone else is often seen, or heard, as an annoying sound, the sound is only one of many down sides. Constant grinding of teeth can cause major damage to thetemporomandibular joint. This results in a condition called TMJ. The temporomandibular joint connects the jawbone to the skull, and allows the jaw to open and close. Symptoms of TMJ include, pain or tenderness in the jaw bone, aching pains in or around the ears, difficulty eating or chewing and locking of the jaw.

Stress can also lead to gum disease or periodontal disease.Studies at State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan showed that stress played a large role in the development of adult gum (periodontal) disease. The studies also showed the people most at risk for gum disease are struggling financially. Stress causes a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol will start to weaken the immune system, letting harmful bacteria into the gums, which can lead to gum disease.

Despite the many side effects of bad oral health during the holidays, it is relatively easy to take care of teeth. The main way to avoid these side effects is to relax. With the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking, and taking friends during the holidays, it is easy to ignore how much stress one is under. It is not a crime to take time and relax.

[Updated Aug. 20, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]