Stress is a result of an endocrine and hormonal imbalance. It affects the normal balance of your body and can lead to gum disease. The mouth mirrors many conditions of the body, especially those caused by stress. Headaches, which are usually stress-related, can restrict blood flow to the head. As a result of the loss of blood flow, you can get a headache. Chronic stress can lead to gum disease by reducing the strength of the immune system, which leads to growth of bacterial plaque. This bacterial plaque can invade the gum structure and lead to loose, inflamed tissue, as well as possible bone loss.
If you are stressed out and not paying much attention to your body's needs, you may be the victim of a poor diet, an important factor in gum disease. Most people who are under the influence of stress eat improperly. Your diet may consist of quick bites of food, sugar, or alcohol, and reduced intake of fluids. If you eat a high-sugar diet, you are certain to have a more acidic saliva, and probably will be a candidate for bacterial plaque. The bacterial plaque will irritate your gums and be a cause of gum disease. Alcohol, as discussed in the previous chapter, has a high sugar content and also diminishes the saliva flow, which is a cause of gum disease. If you drink less water and take in less fluid because of stress, you may notice your saliva thickening. This can cause plaque to attach quickly to the tooth's structure. Plaque feasts on the fragile gum tissue and eats away at the bone supporting the teeth.
Stress can also cause bad physical habits that can wreak havoc on your mouth. Have you ever been in the supermarket, waiting on line for what seems an eternity, and noticed that the person in front of you is overusing his jaws? You can tell by the facial musculature. Grinding and clenching of your teeth can loosen your teeth, and the pressure it produces can irritate the supporting gum tissue. In children, a loose baby tooth can cause the gum to get loose and swollen. Well, when you grind and clench your adult teeth, you are loosening them, and this can have the same effect as a loose baby tooth: it can cause loose, irritated gum tissue, which can result in gum disease.
However, positive stress can help our health and reduce anxiety. Stressful situations can lead us to challenge our spirit and sometimes leave us healthier. It's how we react to stress that is important. If you handle your problems well, you may achieve a healthier immune system.
All in all, however, I would suggest that you try to minimize the stress in your life, for it can play havoc not only on your gums but on other organs such as your heart. Although stress may not be considered a disease, it can be the aggravating factor for such conditions as allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, colitis, ulcers, heart disease, and various nerve conditions. These conditions can all have an effect on your gum tissue.
As mentioned earlier, stress may lead you away from good daily gum and tooth care. You may be preoccupied with your problems and so neglect your body. However, you can start to release your frustrations through positive manipulation of the gum tissue. Think about how good a gum massage feels. It can relax you. If you spend a minute or two in the morning with gum massage, you will relax your mouth and heal the gum tissue.
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