One thing we can all be grateful for this Thanksgiving is the start of a holiday season that’s a little more like what we’re used to. Of course, this one brings its own particular stresses – extra travel hassles, higher prices – but it’s still an improvement over last year, even if “closer to normal” also means a return of more familiar kinds of holiday stress.
Ultimately, though, stress is stress, no matter the source – and when it’s ongoing, it can spell trouble for mouth and body alike. For one, it’s a risk factor for periodontitis (advanced gum disease), as one 2020 paper showed.
In terms of the pathogenesis, there are indications that neurons are able to secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that worsen chronic inflammatory reactions in the periodontium and compromise immune fitness. In vitro studies show high cortisol levels may contribute to the increased growth of P. gingivalis [one of the main kinds of harmful bacteria involved in gum disease].
What’s more, research published earlier this year in the Journal of Dental Research suggests that periodontal inflammation primes the pump, so to speak, for inflammatory diseases beyond the mouth. systemic health problems that are marked by inflammation. Immune fitness is compromised.
Stress is also a common cause of teeth grinding and clenching, which raises the risk of other dental issues, such as TMJ dysfunction, gum recession, and chipped, broken, or simply worn down teeth.
Yet as we noted earlier this year, other research suggests that a total absence of stress isn’t necessarily the answer. Scientists actually showed that having no stressors was linked to a decline in cognitive function that was equal to about 8 years of aging.
The key is being able to manage the stress we all must deal with year round. Good oral health depends on it. It’s right on par with nutrition, sleep, and keeping tobacco-free.
In past years, we’ve suggested a few ways of dialing down holiday stressors in particular (here, for instance). This year, we thought we’d share some of our favorite collections of tips for stress relief – some focused on releasing stress in the here and now, others on becoming more stress-resilient over the long haul:
- 17 Highly Effective Stress Relievers
From VeryWell Mind, this list includes some of the most popular strategies for becoming more stress-resilient. If you’ve never intentionally worked on reducing stress before, this is a great place to start.
- 16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
In addition to the usual advice, Healthline offers some unusual advice, as well, and includes some specific recommendations for aromatherapy and supplementation – both excellent supports for dialing down the stress. Each item is well documented with links to the research behind the recommendations.
- 27 Science-Backed Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now
While the two articles above tend to focus both on immediate and long-term stress relief, this tip sheet from Greatist focuses on relief right now, with ideas for breaks that can really help take the edge off.
- 25 Weird Breaks for Stress Relief
Here, too, the focus is on releasing stress much as you release steam from a pressure cooker. Some of these are kind of silly – but as they say, whatever works. Sometimes, a bit of silliness is all you need to turn your feelings around.
- 101 Ways to Chill Out and Reduce Stress
This is the longest list we’ve seen yet, jam-packed with ideas for cultivating a little relaxation when life starts maxing you out. Some are serious. Some are seriously silly. But there’s bound to be an idea or two or ten here that resonates with you as something you can do for a time-out when times are a little tough.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Rehme Dental Care! We’ll see you back here after the holiday!