Oral health is an integral part of our well-being as it affects every aspect of our lives. It is crucial to our overall health and in the maintenance of our quality of life. It is a condition in which our oral cavity and its related structures are free from pain, infection, diseases, and cancers for us to fully utilize our capacities in speaking, chewing, biting, smiling, among others. Considered the “window to health,” the mouth can also show us indications of systemic diseases, nutritional deficiencies, or general infection of the body.
Oral Health Statistics
Despite the perceived importance of our oral health, people often take it for granted. Worldwide, about 60 to 90 percent of school-age children and almost 100 percent of adults are faced with the problem of dental of cavities. Although, cavities are a very preventable dental disease.
Moreover, 15 to 20 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 years old have severe periodontal disease or periodontitis. The advanced form of inflammation affecting the gums is most common among adults ages 65 years old and older. There is a prevalence rate of over 70 percent.
Because of the pervasiveness of dental cavities and gum disease, tooth loss has also become widespread. This is especially true among older people. Around 30 percent of 65- to 74-year-old adults in the U.S. no longer have any of their natural teeth. This is often a result of poor oral health for years. But those years have now led to permanent tooth loss.
Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society sees a rise in its estimations on cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer in 2018 at 3.7649 percent. New cancer cases will reach 51,540 in 2018. This increase is expected to involve new 2,000 cases compared to last year’s 49,670. More deaths due to oral cancer will also increase in 2018 to an estimated 10,030. This is higher than 2017’s average oral cancer deaths, which was 9,700.
The continuous increase in oral-related diseases may be due to the neglect of most people in terms of keeping their oral health in check.
More than 30 percent of Americans fail to brush their teeth twice a day as recommended by the American Dental Association. Flossing is also not a priority for 20 percent of Americans who never flossed. More than 21 percent of Americans do not visit the dentist. These are big problems that are easy to avoid with good oral health care.
The Link Between Stress and Oral Health
77 percent of Americans regularly experience the physical symptoms of stress. Meanwhile, 73 percent regularly experience the psychological signs of stress. As for those who feel that they are living under extreme stress, they rank at 33 percent. In addition, 48 percent of folks think their stress level has gotten higher in the past five years. Not surprisingly, job pressure, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation were identified as the top causes of stress in the US. In fact, 76 percent cite money and work as the leading cause(s) of their stress. Let’s talk about stress, its effects, how how stress and oral health have a connection.
What is Stress?
Stress is defined as a response to pressure or threat – real or perceived. Stress affects everyone in all walks of life everywhere.
When we are stressed, our body experiences a chemical reaction that lets us act in a way to prevent injury. Known as the “fight-or-flight” or stress response, this reaction helps protect us by:
What Does Stress Look Like?
Symptoms of stress can be ambiguous but affect all aspects of our lives. Emotional indications of stress include:
- agitation, frustration, or mood swings
- difficulty relaxing and calming the mind
- low self-esteem, loneliness, and depression
On the other hand, physical symptoms include:
- headaches, upset stomach, tensed muscles
- rapid heartbeat, insomnia
- clenched jaw, teeth grinding
- nervousness, shaking
Stress and Oral Health
Stress and its consequences can extend to oral health. For instance, the tightening of the jaw muscles and clenching of teeth when you are stressed can cause temporomandibular disorders. Likewise, this can wear out the enamel and cause teeth sensitivity.
Additionally, canker and cold sores may appear as stress can lower the immune system. In turn, a breakout of these sores can appear.
Dry mouth is another side effect of stress. Dry mouth makes the mouth susceptible to tooth decay, oral infections, and gum disease. This is because of the decrease in saliva production. Saliva, after all, is essential in fighting off the naturally-occurring mouth bacteria.
Stress also increases the risk of developing periodontal diseases because of the weaker immune system. In turn, this has an effect on both your oral and general health. Because bacteria is much harder to fight off with a weak immune system, gum disease is more likely to occur. The stronger and longer the negative emotion sticks around, the worse your immunity. And as everyone knows, your immune system plays a vital role throughout your entire body, including your mouth.
Emotions and oral health
Keeping your emotional well-being at a healthy level will increase your immune system. In turn, this can help you fight off health problems in general.
High stress, anxiety, extreme sadness, can also cause negative emotions to worsen. Negative emotions can cause our body’s nutrients to deplete quicker than usual. Without the proper vitamins and minerals, the strength of our teeth may suffer. Additionally, negative emotions like anger and depression may cause some folks to either eat less or turn to junk foods during the duration of their emotion. These junk foods can negatively impact the teeth.
Apart from nutrition, negative emotions can cause us to gravitate away from our self-care routine. Negative emotions may also impact exactly how we engage in oral care. For instance, someone with anger might brush their teeth harder and faster than normal. When you think about it, it does make sense. When you’re not happy, it’s no surprise your general hygiene suffers too.
Fortunately, negative emotions are temporary. However, problems regarding your oral and general health may not be so temporary. So, upkeeping hygiene and getting help for long-term emotional problems if necessary is critical.
How Sleep Affects Oral Health
Sleep, we sometimes tend to believe, is not necessary – a complete waste of time and an excuse for unproductivity. This is quite similar to what InterActiveCorp (IAC) CEO Joey Levin told Business Insider at its annual flagship conference IGNITION. According to Levin, sleep is something that you can do later as there are other activities and events that are more important. The IAC CEO admitted that sleep ranks relatively low in his priority list despite acknowledging the necessity of sleep in everyday function. (Like the fact that sleep and oral health have close relations, and if one isn’t up-to-par, the other can take a hit as well.)
We cannot bat an eyelid at Levin because, like him, we sometimes neglect it. More than 35 percent of American adults reported sleeping less than seven hours during a typical 24-hour period.
However, this is a big mistake. It’s been proven time and time again that sleep is integral in many aspects of our lives. We will discuss the effects of sleep and oral health after talking about the different stages of sleep and what they do.
Slipping into Dreamland: The Stages
But sleep, like food and water, is essential to our well-being.
We devote around 30 percent of our lives sleeping – something that scientists’ years of research has yet to find out why. The endorsed number of hours of daily sleep is seven to eight hours.
When we drift into a peaceful slumber, our body goes through five different stages of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes.
Stage #1: Introduction
The first stage usually takes a minute to seven minutes. This is the stage when our eyelids become heavy, and our head starts to drop as the brain produces alpha and theta waves. Alpha waves are the link between conscious and subconscious thinking, while theta waves are connected to our deep and raw emotions.
Called “introduction into sleep,” the first stage is quite brief and involves the slowing down of the brain activity. It is in this stage where the muscle begins to relax. Because stage one doesn’t involve deep sleep, you’re prone to waking up, say, when you hear a small noise.
Stage #2: Beginning
The second stage is the “beginning of sleep,” which also involves slowing down the brain and muscle activity. When you are woken up in this stage, you become quickly alert and can engage in conversation easily.
Stage #3 & #4: Slow Wave
During the third and fourth stage or the “slow-wave sleep,” deep sleep begins. The brain will start to produce delta waves which are the slowest recorded brain waves in humans. This type of wave decreases as we age. At this stage, the body becomes less receptive to outside stimuli. This is also the stage where the body restores muscles and tissues, invigorates growth and development, enhances immune function, and builds energy. Knowing this, you can probably begin to better understand the linkage between sleep and oral health.
Stage #5: Rapid Eye Movement
The final stage is the rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep stage. You will enter this stage after about 90 minutes of initially falling asleep. Each REM stage can persist up to an hour with an average adult having about five to six REM cycles a night. In this stage, the brain is more lively, and dreaming occurs. It is called rapid eye movement sleep because the eyes move quickly in different directions. Aside from the eyes, the heart rate and blood pressure increase, breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow.
The stages of sleep are not constant and may occur at different durations depending on one’s age and other factors.
Getting our Zzzz: The Importance
When we slip into dreamland for at least seven to eight hours, we protect our mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, our waking state greatly depends on our sleep the night before. A good night’s sleep helps leads to healthy brain function and better emotional well-being. These, in turn, allow us to think, work, react, socialize, and learn better.
When you sleep, you allow your body to recuperate, repair the heart and blood vessels, decrease the likelihood of obesity, maintain the right balance of hormones, improve the body’s reaction to insulin, support growth & development, and keep the immune system healthy.
Sleep and Oral Health: There’s a Close Link
Good quality sleep, at least seven to eight hours, also helps you achieve your most beautiful smile by warding off gum diseases and lessens the likelihood of bad breath, dry mouth, and canker sores.
According to research, sleep follows smoking as the most influential factor that increases the risk of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease or gum disease is an infection of the surrounding tissues and supporting bones of the teeth which are classified as either gingivitis or periodontitis. Gum disease causes gum inflammation and bleeding gums. Worst case periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and damage to the bones and tissues.
When we do not get the right amount of sleep, our immune system can weaken, and oral bacteria can invade our mouth at a pace that our immune system cannot keep up. Bacteria can build up and lead to plaque and canker sores.
Canker sores are small, center lesions that usually appear on the soft tissues of the mouth or the base of the gums that can cause discomfort especially when speaking or eating. Stress and a weak immune system can attribute to the occurrence of the sores.
Aside from brushing and flossing, a good night’s sleep is essential in keeping our oral health in check. With a peaceful slumber, we will be more active, less stressed, and our body can function correctly. So, get your snooze on.