We’ve all experienced stress in our lives. Whether it is frequent or infrequent, it is important to understand how to overcome stress before it leads to distress. It is even more pertinent to find out if your patients are suffering from stress or how it is affecting their day-to-day lives.

Before we dive into stress and distress, I want you to think about a few conditions: high blood pressure, acid reflux, diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, obesity, and, asthma. What do these conditions have in common? Yes, most people think it is inevitable that they develop one or several of these conditions later in life. However, that shouldn’t ever be the case, but there is one factor in each of these conditions that we can control. It’s stress.

What Does Stress Have to Do with Distress?

Stress isn’t just something going on in our patients’ minds. Instead, it can affect the entire body. We get stressed because our body is reacting to any change that might require an adjustment or response, and the body can react with physical, mental or emotional responses. When patients feel stressed, it triggers the body’s response to threat or danger, also referred to as the fight or flight response.

Once this “threat” is gone, the body’s systems are designed to return to normal function through a relaxation response. However, in times of chronic stress this doesn’t happen enough and can cause damage to the body. When that continues, it can lead to distress, which can include physical symptoms such as headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. It can event bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

The Dental Link

As I stated previously, stress can worsen symptoms and diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and acid reflux. When you think of these conditions, what can you link them to? That’s right; obstructive sleep apnea. This is where you come into the picture.

By completing continuing education in dental sleep medicine and craniofacial pain, you can spot these signs and symptoms. We know that sleep apnea has so many comorbidities, but with proper treatment it can help to minimize or eliminate the symptoms and condition.

Stress might be a natural event that takes place at various points in our patients’ lives, but it shouldn’t lead to further harm. By understanding the different signs and symptoms, we can take the next step in providing them with proper care.

Author: Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS

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