How Childhood Stress Affects Your Teeth

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Stress can affect everyone, including us as children. In this article we wanted to take a look at how childhood stress affects your teeth.

Stress: The Great Equalizer

Childhood is hard on both the kid and the parents. There’s teething and nightmares, scraped knees and runny noses, and let us not forget the dreaded first day of school. Yet, those are only the cute nicknames for what everyone involved is truly dealing with: enormous, unrelenting, stress.

Did you know that “stress” is actually a recognized medical condition? Call it tension or anxiety, by any other name the condition is still a rough journey. Unpredictable, and sometimes associated with clinical Major Depression, children can experience a host of symptoms related to stress, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Low energy or too much energy (mania)
  • Emotional hypersensitivity and/or difficulty getting along with others
  • Arms and legs feeling weak or heavy
  • Oversleeping
  • Changes in diet
  • Weight gain
  • Teeth grinding and/or clenching
  • Sensitivity in the jaw
  • Gum disease
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • And more!

While stress can play havoc on the health of a full-grown adult, it is even worse in children because it can affect their development – causing a “domino effect” of lifelong problems.

Childhood stress and its impact on teeth

One of the most common reactions to stress is chronic teeth grinding and/or jaw clenching. As a child begins to grind their teeth, you will see a host of oral health problems begin to arise. Most importantly, teeth grinding effects the overall strength of teeth – causing them to become loose or even cracked. Cracked teeth are easily infected by bacteria – therefore, what starts as nightly teeth grinding can (and most likely, will) evolve into periodontal disease and infections that can spread to other parts of the body.

Another typical response to stress is seeking comfort through unhealthy foods like sweets. Sweets and other “rich” foods are the number one cause for almost every dental problem in young children – causing tooth/gum disease, bacterial infections, and just general poor oral hygiene. Also, since the child is learning this damaging coping technique at a young age, there is a very good chance that the behavior will follow them into adulthood potentially leading to diabetes and heart disease.

Finally, one of the first signs that a person is dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and/or depression is not keeping up with their regular health maintenance. By choosing not to bathe or maintain their usual oral health routines (brushing/flossing), you child is at risk of contracting a huge array of dental problems and developing the beginning stages of lifelong illness’s.

However, stress can be managed.

It is the goal of the is article to give you some options for managing the mental wellbeing of your children – as well as your self – so neither of you is an anxious mess. Through these “lifestyle hacks” your child will be calmer, happier and healthier.

# 1: Manage Their Environment

Since many of the suspected causes of stress have to do with your environment, your first step should be to foster a calm, happy living space …

  • Open the blinds/drapes in every section of your house
  • Trim tree branches from your windows to expose more day light
  • Play calming music
  • Clean and organize your home

#2: Keep Them Occupied

Piggy-backing on #1’s concept of “a calm, happy living space”, you should make an effort to keep your mind occupied.

  • Go outside to exercise or play
  • Keep kids entertained with educational activities
  • Volunteer
  • The limit is your imagination!

#3: Exercise

A good work out is one of the best all-natural remedies for stress or anxiety. Studies show that regular exercise …

  • Promotes neural growth
  • Reduces inflammation (in the brain as well as throughout the entire body)
  • Releases Endorphins and Dopamine (other brain chemicals that control mood)
  • Helps regulate Serotonin and Norepinephrine
  • Develops the immune system
  • Improves concentration and memory
  • Aids sleep
  • And a whole-lot more!

The benefits are incredible too. In no time you and/or your children will: be happier (naturally), be more motivated, focused, sleep better, have higher self-esteem, get sick less, and have a healthy way to distract yourself if nothing else is pulling you out of a “funk”. Regular exercise is also a relatively small-time commitment. Most doctors only recommend exercising for just 30 minutes, 3-5 days a week, to see all of the benefits listed above.

#:4 Supplement Their Diet

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you already know that comfort-food is not medicine. Your diet – by and large – should be a healthy one, year-round. However, there are some additional things you can adopt into your daily regime that can help ease your stress. These are the most useful vitamins that people have found to be helpful in stress management

Quick note: The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has never fully endorsed any one nutritional supplement (specifically) for the treatment of depression or stress. However, many people have reported seeing improvements by incorporating one or more of the following vitamins. You should consult with your physician before taking any nutritional supplement, especially if you are taking regular medication for another condition. These have been rumored to be helpful:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Melatonin
  • John’s Wort

One nutrient that deserves a special ‘mention’ is Vitamin D … Usually manufactured by your skins natural response to contact with sunlight, this vitamin is attributed with being a major player in the fight against depression (in general), we recommend seriously investigating whether or not it as an option for you.

#5 A Few Final Options …

If nothing above helps, here are a few “honorable mentions” for things people do to naturally remedy stress …

By incorporating one – or all – of the strategies mentioned in this article, you will be proactive in your child’s struggle against anxiety, depression, and stress.