Stress, Anxiety and Your Oral Health

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

It’s estimated that 40 million Americans battle an anxiety disorder, the effects of which can be debilitating. Anxiety can cause panic attacks, headaches, depression, muscle aches, fatigue…the list goes on. What most of us don’t consider, however, is the effect that anxiety can have on our oral health.

Common oral side effects

Bruxism: Stress and anxiety cause tension in the jaw which can lead to teeth grinding. If you suspect you’re grinding your teeth, speak with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff about a night guard to help protect your teeth from stress-related wear and tear.

TMD: When you experience stress or anxiety, you may clench your teeth and jaw. This tension causes stress on the temporomandibular joints which can cause temporomandibular disorder or TMD. At times, TMD can also be related to sleep and how you are (or are not!) sleeping. We have the ability to help you recognize signs and symptoms that your sleep may be broken or unhealthy. As with bruxism, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will likely recommend some kind of in-the-mouth appliance to ease jaw discomfort and protect these joints from wear. Learn more about TMD in one of our recent posts here!

Dry mouth: Many anti-anxiety medications, while effective at relieving anxiety, can reduce the production of saliva, leading to dry mouth. Without adequate saliva, it’s difficult for your mouth to rinse out food debris and plaque which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It’s especially important to keep your mouth lubricated by sucking on sugar-free candy, chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water. Also, if you struggle with dry mouth, it’s especially important to brush and floss regularly as well as rinse with antibacterial and fluoridated mouthwash. Talk with us at your next recare visit as there are products we can recommend to help your dry mouth.

Lichen planus: Among other symptoms, stress can increase systemic inflammation. Inflammation increases the likelihood of developing mouth ulcers and white, lacy lines in the cheeks, known as lichen planus. This condition can cause a painful, burning sensation in the mouth and left untreated, has been linked to mouth cancer. Although it cannot be eliminated, you can reduce the symptoms of this bothersome condition in a number of ways. Learn more!

Cavities and gum disease: People who experience anxiety are more prone to dental phobia and therefore, oftentimes, avoid regular dental visits. When this occurs, oral health deteriorates and the instance of cavities and gum disease skyrockets. If you struggle with dental phobia, speak with Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff. They would love to explain our dental comforts and discuss how we can partner with you to make your visits as easy as possible!

Cold sores: Although the herpes simplex virus must be present for cold sores to develop, stress and anxiety can trigger an outbreak. It’s important to treat cold sores with an over-the-counter cream immediately to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others.

Take charge of your oral health

Therapy, medications and regular exercise are just a few ways to reduce stress and anxiety before they wreak havoc on your oral health.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we know that your mental health affects your oral health and we believe that they are both equally important components of overall wellness. If you’re concerned that your oral health is being compromised on account of stress or anxiety in your life, we recommend making an appointment with your primary physician as well as with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff at 651.482.8412.

Learn more about the connection between mental health and oral health here!

6 Ways to Help Ease Dental Phobia

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

As we covered in our previous post, people experience varying levels of anxiety about going to the dentist. There is, however, a percentage of the population that experiences dental phobia and avoids the dentist altogether. Fortunately, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff of Eggert Family Dentistry recognize this struggle and work hard to ease patients’ fears.

Ways to ease dental phobia

According to the Dental Research Journal, 5-14% of people battle dental phobia. If you count yourself among this group and avoid routine dental care on account of irrational fears and feelings of terror, you will be relieved to learn that there are some excellent ways you and our dentists can work together to ease your phobia:

  1. Music: Routine cleanings and most procedures are conducive to headphones. If you want to play music to calm your nerves, please do. We have overhead music, but if you prefer to listen to your own, bring your personal music device along. We have headphones available or you can bring your own.
  2. Cable TV: It is also possible to watch your favorite TV shows as we have cable TV available with headphones in every procedure room.
  3. Calming techniques: Sometimes the best way to ease your nerves in our chair is by practicing a variety of calming techniques. Deep breathing and visualization are two great go-to’s! Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff, as well as their assistants, Tracy and Heather, are very good at recognizing when you might need help with your breathing and are great at coaching you through any difficulties.
  4. Hand signals: If feeling like you have no control when you’re in the dentist’s chair feeds your anxiety, speak with us about the use of hand signals. Communicating with us by simply raising your hand when you need a break or if you are experiencing any pain during your appointment can be enough to take the edge off that helpless feeling.
  5. Communication: Talk about your fears with Dr. Elizabeth, Dr. Jeff, and our team. Sometimes, just having those fears validated is enough to quell them. This also gives us an opportunity to offer you updated information about the impending procedure and correct any misconceptions.
  6. Medications: If you struggle with dental phobia, there are some sedatives available, but often aren’t needed when the techniques above are implemented. We also can use nitrous oxide gas (laughing gas) as an especially safe and effective in-office choice.

Our Comforts

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we work hard to make sure our patients are physically comfortable and mentally at ease. That’s why we have available a variety of comforts:

  • Warm neck and hand wraps
  • Spa hand treatments
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Comfy blankets
  • Headphones
  • Coffee, tea, water
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cable TV in every treatment room
  • State-of-the-art technology, including:
    -Intraoral cameras – Your dentist or hygienist can take pictures of what they are seeing in your mouth to help them explain to you why they are recommending certain treatments.
    -Laser dentistry – It’s typically more comfortable and less invasive than traditional methods.
    -Digital x-rays
  • Relaxed environment
  • Wooded scenery great for wildlife viewing
  • Convenient location

Tracy talks about the comfort measures at Eggert Family Dentistry.

If you want to learn more about the Comforts we offer and how we ease dental phobia here at Eggert Family Dentistry, give us a call at 651.482.8412. We are happy to further discuss how we can make your next visit your best one yet!

Could I Have Dental Phobia?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Dental anxiety is a widespread problem. Most of us know at least a few people who struggle with it…maybe you’re even one of them. However, when push comes to shove, most people with dental anxiety can still maintain their routine dental visits. Dental phobia, however, is a much more serious condition. Let’s take a look at what dental phobia is, what it can be attributed to and the side effects of dental phobia.

Signs of dental phobia

People who struggle with dental phobia experience dread and terror at the mere thought of the dentist and avoid going to the dental office all together unless they are in extreme pain. In addition to avoidance, dental phobia is characterized by insomnia leading up to a dental appointment, crying, nervousness, panic or an upset stomach in the waiting room or exam room.

Causes of dental phobia

Dental phobia can stem from a variety of underlying fears:

  •  The fear of experiencing pain: Often attributed to bad childhood experiences or to other people’s horror stories, the fear of pain is one of the biggest contributors to dental phobia. Fortunately, with advancements in dental technology, most dental procedures today are virtually pain-free.
  • The fear of anesthetics: While used to calm, sedate or numb patients, people with dental phobia often fear anesthetics and their side effects such as nausea, dizziness or the “fat lip” feeling.
  • The fear of vulnerability: Many people with dental phobia say they fear having someone working within inches of their face and in their mouth. They also don’t want to feel helpless and want to be unable to see what’s going on.

Side effects

Left untreated, dental phobia can cause a variety of problems. Because people who suffer from dental phobia avoid regular dental visits and often delay needed dental work, they can develop gum disease and severe tooth decay and can experience early tooth loss. These unfortunate side effects can drastically impact a person’s self esteem and often these victims begin to withdraw socially. Worse yet, poor oral health has been proven to negatively impact a person’s heart and lung health and can lead to decreased life expectancy.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we rally around our patients. We want to make sure you get the care you need and that you’re as comfortable as possible! If you or a loved one struggle with dental anxiety or dental phobia and would like to learn how we can help, give us a call at 651.482.8412.

The Connection Between Mental Health and Oral Health

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

It has long been recognized that mental illness can lead to many inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and cancer. Recently, however, an increasing amount of attention is being directed at the correlation between mental health and oral health. Understanding this correlation can empower individuals who struggle with mental illness or people whose loved ones struggle with mental illness to take initiative in order to ward off a host of dental problems.

Common mental illnesses and their effect on oral health

Mental illnesses manifest themselves physically in a variety of ways and oral health is no exception:

Anxiety:

On account of the intense stress a person’s body experiences as the result of an anxiety disorder as well as some anti-anxiety medications that inadvertently decrease the mouth’s ability to produce saliva, these are some common oral health problems that can ensue:

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • TMD (Read our recent post here)
  • Dry mouth
  • Canker sores
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Lichen planus
  • Gingivitis or periodontal disease

Depression:

When a person experiences depression, they oftentimes increase their consumption of tobacco products and alcohol. These substances can cause attrition, or weakening of tooth enamel and tooth erosion due to gastro-esophageal reflux.

Eating Disorders:

According to a study with findings published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, between 35% and 38% of people with eating disorders battle tooth erosion. This is due largely to self-induced vomiting, which causes stomach acid to eat away at tooth enamel. Additionally, people who struggle with anorexia report a much greater percentage of decaying, missing and filled teeth than those who do not.

Bipolar:

Because bipolar can lend itself to manic behavior, this often translates into vigorous brushing and flossing that can cause dental abrasion and mucosal or gingival lacerations.

Dementia and Schizophrenia:

On account of psychotropic medications often prescribed for these illnesses, people with dementia and schizophrenia often experience an increase in bacteria-induced decay and gum disease.

Additionally, because people who struggle with varying levels of mental illness often experience an increase in substance abuse and/or a poor diet laden with carbonated drinks and sugary foods, they can truly suffer on multiple fronts. Left unaddressed, most oral health concerns resulting from mental illness lead to eventual tooth loss. So what can be done?

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we want to partner with you to help you achieve optimal dental wellness. If you are concerned about the effects of mental health on your oral health or that of a loved one, schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff today at 651.482.8412.