The holiday season is certainly one for celebrating, making memories, and enjoying one’s time with friends and family. But sometimes, the holidays can actually worsen many aspects of your health, including your oral health! And oftentimes your physical and mental health further can negatively affect your oral health too.
So, what if TMJ pain is holding you back from fully experiencing the holidays?
Believe it or not, the holidays can have a big impact on your oral health — sometimes for the worse. Without you realizing it, your daily lifestyle and actions during the holidays could be causing you more TMJ pain or worsening your oral health.
The top factor as a detriment to health — physical, mental, and oral — during the holidays is stress! Life gets busier, your calendar gets more booked, and your to-do list grows longer. All of those things can cause stress, which is simply your body’s reaction to a demand or challenge.
Short bouts of stress can actually be positive; however, large amounts or long-term stress can do damage to your body.
And being stressed out is stressful enough without throwing in the knowledge that our stress is affecting our health. So, our goal is to educate you and make you aware of signs you can look out for so that the holidays don’t totally destroy your oral health!
Our bodies react to stress differently, sometimes reacting in ways that we aren’t even aware of. Clenching and grinding of the teeth — also known as bruxism — is one of those things.
Bruxism is often caused by high levels of stress, and is almost an automatic response of the body — both when you’re awake and asleep. Over time, this excess force on the bones and muscles of the jaw and teeth can cause great damage. This can include cracked, chipped, or broken teeth, as well as damage to the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint, aka, TMJ). Repetition of this force on the TMJ causes pain and TMJ disorder.
When you find yourself in stressful situations, try to become aware of how your mouth and jaw are responding. If you find your teeth are grinding or clenched, take a deep breath and relax your mouth.
With the clenching and grinding of the teeth, often comes clenching of the jaw. As mentioned above, the repetition of this movement can cause damage to the jaw joint over time. This damage leads to TMJ disorder and the inevitable pain you may be experiencing as a result of jaw clenching.
Along with clenching pain, TMJ disorder may also cause popping, clicking, or a locked jaw joint. TMJ can also be caused by a misaligned jaw (which is why it’s important to find a holistic TMJ dentist who will look for the root of your problem, and not just “fix” the symptoms). The continuous grinding and clenching on the misaligned jaw only creates even more issues and deeper pain.
If you’re experiencing more jaw pain than normal this time of year, your holiday stress could be the culprit.
While gum disease is more common with smoking or poor dental hygiene, that’s not the only causes. You guessed it, stress can actually cause gum disease — mostly through the clenching and grinding.
When our bodies are in constant stress, our immune system starts to break down and therefore, we become more susceptible to things like gum disease.
Last but not least, a common symptom of TMJ disorder and stress is tension. Stress causes us to tense and lock up our muscles, especially in the jaw, face, neck, and shoulders. All of these are areas that are connected to and affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Tension can come in the form of headaches or migraines, muscle pain, tightness, or aches — especially in the face (jaw) and neck. This tension puts even more stress on the body, thus creating a damaging cycle.
Now, with all of these symptoms, the number one culprit is usually stress. If you can find ways to cope and handle your stress, especially during the holiday season, your body and health will thank you! Being aware of your stress triggers and situations that may cause even deeper TMJ pain is also key.
With all of these effects, you can also always visit a TMJ specialist who can take a deeper look into your pain and how the holidays might be affecting your oral health — and your life!
While you might think holiday stress is inevitable, we want to help you feel your best and enjoy your holidays! If you’re worried that the holidays are negatively affecting your oral health and/or TMJ pain, reach out to us at TMJ Plus! We’d be happy to review your oral health, pain, symptoms, etc. with you to ensure we find the right holistic treatment plan for you.
Don’t let the stress or other factors of the holiday let TMJ pain ruin the season for you. Schedule today, and be one step closer to having a happier, healthier holidays!
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