Stress and Dental Disease PART 2
Stress impacts different people in different ways. Everyone is strong in at least one aspect of their being – in the same way, we all have weaknesses. No one is strong on all fronts. It is these susceptibilities that stress can exploit. In some ways, some may consider this as a signal from the universe, helping us work on our areas of vulnerability.
We talk about stress every day – our interpretation being that stress is a form of negative emotion. The use of the word negative is a very intuitive way to interpret stress. One of the best explanations of stress that I have come across is the description provided by Dr Paul Dobransky.
In his series MindOS (the operating system of the mind), he speaks about our boundaries, and how our boundaries are like a “semi-permeable membrane” where if we have good boundary management, we are able to regulate what gets into our internal space. We can make allowances for the entry of positive emotions (emotions = energy), and to a significant degree, we can diminish or even block the entry of negative emotions.
In this way, if we wake up one morning – we’ve had a really restful sleep, we’ve got a day lined up that has elements that we are looking forward to, the birds are chirping, and the sun is rising – we may consider ourselves content and optimally challenged by life – our score inside our boundary is 100 points.
We make ourselves a healthy breakfast, shower and get dressed for work, jump in the car and... the car has a flat battery – $ #!%. Please subtract 20 points from your wellbeing score. You’re now down to 80 points. Each time you choose to relive the experience of your flat battery in the car... you lose 20 points. As you can see, it’s not difficult to head into negative territory (in terms of energy balance) very quickly!
So what does this have to do with dental disease…? Firstly, by becoming emotionally charged by the flat battery event, not only do we accept the negative energy (create an entry point in our boundary), we may even escalate the “loss.” We’ve all got choices about our responses.
Secondly, research indicates that emotional stress has a very close link to our immunity. Negative emotional stress can reduce our immune response, and the immune response is very closely linked to gum disease.
Our teeth are the only place in our body where a structure (teeth) penetrate a mucous membrane (the lining of the tube that runs from your mouth to the other end). This penetration of the mucous membrane creates a unique immunological scenario. The area we are talking about is the gum and
bone immediately adjacent to all of the teeth. There is a small fold of gum – a pocket – that runs around each tooth. This is part of the transition zone from the external environment to the internal environment.
This unique organization of the tissues around teeth, in combination with the close interdependence between emotions and immune response, can be a factor in the development and progression of gum disease. In fact, I have seen several patients where the impact of emotional stress has resulted in the rapid progression of gum disease, even in the presence of regular home care routines.
Home care (cleaning between teeth with floss or interdental brushes and tooth brushing) is critical for our dental health. Less attention is given to how we process emotions – and the effect that emotional stress can have on our general health and immune response.
POSTSCRIPT: This article may sound like I’m some sort of guru around emotional stress. In fact, I’ve struggled with the management of emotions all of my life. I have found the work of Dr Paul Dobransky – particularly MindOS – helpful in the understanding of emotions and how we think. I would commend Dr Paul’s work to anyone that is interested in understanding themselves better.
DR ALEX HUSZTI BelleDental
Alex has had a career focused on low-biologic cost reconstructive cosmetic dental care – common sense teeth for life.