Stress and How It Finds Its Way Into Dentistry

Seldom has a day gone by when I don’t have to simply be a doctor. Yes, the patient came to have a procedure for this or that but first and foremost, there is a need for the human touch, a sense of understanding and empathy. A need to be fully present to the person, in the moment and share in their humanity. When a patient says, “I’m stressed”, I stop, hold their hand and say it’s ok. You are safe here, right now. Now, let’s together take some deep breaths. Get them up from the belly, way down deep. Now breathe deep and slow. Close your eyes and know you are safe. Let the tension melt away.

To watch the change of state in the person, in just a few minutes, brings a sharp focus to the power we have to individually influence the lives of those whom we come in contact with. The shift of energy from being in a super charged frenetic state, to one who has become centered and calm is palpable. It takes just moments to know who is in a heightened state. You can read between the worry lines showing up on the forehead or between the eyebrows. The telltale signs of stress. And I have observed the power of focus breath work while in such state of stress, and how powerful the state of change can be for someone, myself included.

 Stress, It’s Everywhere

In today’s world you can’t blink without seeing something on mind/body work, meditation and stress reduction.  There are centers that were started purely to assist in guided meditation, podacast to help you while at home and even retreats to allow you to completely unplug from your daily life.  Why is stress such a problem in today’s society?  Perhaps it’s work, family life, sensory overload with technology, everyone is different.  But for our purpose here, how is this important in dentistry? Well, one of the greatest causes of tooth damage is stress.
Stress that manifests in the form of gnashing and wailing, or more recently, clenching and grinding of the teeth. This shows up as fractures of the teeth, bone loss around the teeth, bone growth around the teeth,  and nerve death from cutting off the blood supply to the teeth. Most of the time the fix is expensive after the fact. Before the fact, if signs and symptoms surface, one would be well served by marching out to the drug store and trying an over the counter bite guard. If this is successful, you have a self-help tool that can be not only a tooth saver but a life saver. If you cannot find one the works over the counter, have one made professionally. It will be some of the best money spent on yourself.  Of course once you have a bite guard, you must use the device.

 Stress Management

Though having a mouth guard is important in helping save your teeth and oral structure, it is important to find some form of stress management.  This can include, yoga or meditation or periodic quieting oneself and doing some deep breathing for just a few minutes. This can work wonders.

The Mantra

Now, a mantra that was told to me as a child and have shared with my own children and patients is…Lips together, teeth apart, from this rule, I won’t depart.
Good luck with finding your peaceful happy place.
Dr. Nicholas Meyer

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