Stress is a common problem in today's society. Stress is a reaction to the demands placed on us and our ability to cope with them. It can come from external sources, such as work, school, family and friends, but it can also come from within; expectations and anxieties that overwhelm us. Stress can affect anyone, even children.
Stress In Children And The Oral Health Affects
Oral health can be compromised by stress on many levels. If a child's family has experienced death or divorce, economic status may be affected as a result. This could lead to a lack of both preventive and curative dental care during the critical years when teeth are forming and erupting. Eating habits might change and allow for unhealthy and sugary food choices that will lead to a higher rate of dental decay. Finally, a child could also begin or revert back to coping habits that will negatively affect the teeth, such as thumb-sucking or bruxism.
Dental decay is the most prevalent childhood disease in society today. It can lead to pain, multiple dental visits for fillings and even abscesses that result in extractions. Also, missing or misaligned teeth are embarrassing for children, especially teens. Studies have shown that children who grow up in socio-economically challenged families have a disproportionate rate of dental caries. The results of these studies indicate that stress from these situations increases the amount of salivary cortisols and cavity-forming bacteria in the mouth. Both these variables will compromise developing dentition. These are key indicators that stress triggers physiological mechanisms that can compromise oral and overall health.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress is the first step to coping with it. Parents and guardians must understand that neglect will only exacerbate the problem. Here are some ways to manage your child's stress:
- Encourage adequate sleep and a healthy diet.
- Spend quality time with your children every day.
- Talk about the causes of your child's stress.
- Schedule wellness visits to the doctor and follow-up visits to the dentist.
- Prepare your children for their doctor and dentist visits.
- Encourage older children to keep a journal.
- Seek help from a school counselor or mental health professional.