The Holiday Season Brings Stress

For many, stress is the culprit to their facial pain, which means finding ways to combat stress is vital in preventing pain. Stress affects almost everyone at some point in their lives, and approximately 77 percent of people reported that they experienced physical symptoms due to stress—that’s a lot of people! To help your patients this holiday season, here are some tips you might want to share with them to help combat stress:

Be Aware

If you are feeling stressed, take a moment to notice if you’re carrying tension in your jaw. You might even notice that you are grinding your teeth. If so, it’s important to be able to pinpoint these moments throughout the day. The more you can make yourself aware of the situation, the faster you’ll be able to stop yourself from clenching and grinding when you feel anxious. When this happens, loosen your jaw and massage the muscles. Doing this might relieve some of the tension and keep pain at bay.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but sleep is extremely important. You should be getting at least eight hours of sleep a night in order to feel fully rested the next day. Having trouble sleeping? Make sure that electronic devices, caffeine or afternoon naps aren’t to blame. Keep your room at a comfortable temperature and leave distractions out of the bedroom for a restful sleep.

Watch What You Eat  

Your diet and stress are closely linked, and often times we don’t eat healthy when we have an impending deadline or a long workday. It’s sometimes faster just to run to the vending machine for a sugary snack than it is to pack something healthy. However, try to plan ahead before you leave for work. Be sure to stock up on fruits, vegetables and foods rich in omega-3s, which have been shown to reduce stress. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the sudden energy zap that often accompanies chowing down on a candy bar.

Don’t Forget to Exercise

You’re probably wondering when you could possibly have time to exercise; however, we don’t necessarily mean pumping iron at your local gym. Exercise is anything that gets the blood flowing, which triggers endorphins. Take a quick jaunt around the office or take a quick walk during your lunch break. You wouldn’t believe how just a little bit of movement throughout the day can instantly brighten a stressed mood.

Do you have any tips that help you deal with stress during the holiday season? I’d love to hear what they are and how they might help your patients!

How is Your Social Network?

So, you have your social network up and running, and have been actively posting. With an active social network, you can continue to reach your patients and even medical professionals with important information. From sharing educational blog posts to statuses about your practice, and even articles from around the Internet, your social network stands as a vital go-between you and your patients. Let’s take a look at how you can re-examine your social network.

Times to Post

You may not realize it, but timing is important. Ask yourself this: When do your patients go online? Or, better yet, when do you or your staff go online? By understanding when people are utilizing the Internet, you can plan out your sharing and posting. For example, most people will go on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram when they first wake up in the morning, at lunchtime, after work and then again before bed. If you stick to a time around those indicated, you can further improve your outreach to your patients.

Content Sharing

Pay close attention to what you are sharing on your social network. Is the information you are posting relatable for your patients? Is it something they really want to know? Think about questions that your patients frequently ask you and utilize information that answers those questions.

Help to educate your patients in dental sleep medicine by:

  • Answering questions
  • Providing resources
  • Sharing images
  • Giving tips

The purpose of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ is to educate your patients on your specific area of interest. From articles throughout the Internet to your own educational blogs, social media channels are available for you to reach your patients in any way possible—even if it is to announce a new member to your already expansive dental team.

Let your patients know that you are available and are listening.

Food Tips for Your Patients on Thanksgiving

TMD is a painful condition that can worsen when eating the wrong foods. With the holidays just around the corner that often means there will be lots of different food for your patients to choose from! This is also the time of year where many people will eat more food than they normally eat during the year—and it is often food that they don’t typically eat other times. To help your patients protect their jaws and prevent pain, here is a list of diet changes that might help improve their TMD symptoms this Thanksgiving:

Skip the Crunchy and Chewy

When at the dinner table, there might be a lot of crunchy and chewy foods to choose from this holiday season, but it is important to urge your patients not to do it. Many crunchy foods, such as hard, crusty breads and crackers, can put a lot of strain on a person’s jaw. Additionally, chewy can also worsen TMD pain in patients. This is because chewy foods tend to be sweet, enjoyable treats that might be hard to avoid. While it may be difficult to pass on gum, caramel and gummy candy, it might be a sacrifice patients need to take for improved TMJ health this season.

Take Smaller Bites

Patients might also be tempted to eating everything in sight without chewing it all the way through, but remind them to be patient. Large foods that require opening the mouth wide such as corn-on-the-cob and whole apples can overextend the jaw and ultimately cause pain for a TMD sufferer. Even large sandwiches and burgers can overextend the jaw. Instead, patients should try using a fork and knife to cut food into smaller pieces that are easier to eat.

Choose Vegetables

Lastly, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner make sure to encourage your patients to say “Yes” to vegetables. However, make sure they choose wisely what veggies to eat. For instance, patients should avoid carrots because they are harder and can hurt their jaw. On the other hand, if the carrots are cooked, then they are soft enough to not hurt their jaw.

When something in the body is causing pain when it moves, it is best to minimize the movement of that body part. However, when it comes to jaw pain it is not that easy to do since we have to eat, and speak. However, patients can limit the amount of movement their jaw makes as to not use the muscles that are causing pain by choosing foods that do not require a lot of chewing, while also avoiding habits that make the muscles work.

The Connection Between Gout and Sleep Apnea

As you know, sleep apnea can be linked to a variety of health conditions including heart disease. With recent research, we have found another connection: gout. A new study has found that sleep apnea can be linked to gout and flare-ups according to The Washington Post. Due to gout’s intense pain and swelling of joint, typically the big toe, it can often result in the deposit of uric acid crystals in joints and tissues. From this, our patients could be at a higher risk of developing gout when suffering from sleep apnea. Below I have outlined the study to help us gain a better understanding of the connection between sleep apnea and gout, and how we can continue to help protect our patients’ overall health.

The Sleep Apnea/Gout Study

It’s really exciting when new studies come out with new findings, isn’t it? This new study on sleep apnea and gout found that since sleep apnea causes periods of oxygen deprivation, it can trigger overproduction of uric acid in the bloodstream. Why is this bad? Well, when this happens, gout can develop, which is often very painful. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost six percent of men and two percent of women in the United States experienced gout from 2007-2008.

Sleep apnea is more common than gout, but it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Obesity plays an important role in both sleep apnea and gout. However, sleep apnea increased the risk for gout even when weight was accounted for. Within this study, 10,000 people had a new diagnosis of sleep apnea and were compared to more than 40,000 people of similar sex, age, birth year and body composition but without sleep apnea.

Over a one-year period, there were 270 cases of gout—that was 76 in the sleep apnea group and 194 in the larger group. Gout was twice as common in people with sleep apnea as those who did not. Obesity increased the risk of sleep apnea, but some thin people still suffered from sleep apnea, and even these people the risk of gout was increased by 80 percent. The next step would be to test whether treating sleep apnea reduces the risk of gout.

What Can You Do?

Now that we are aware of this new connection, it opens up even more doors for your dental office. While we were aware of other connections, this connection with gout allows us to pay even closer attention to what our patients are saying. Complete continuing education so you can remain knowledgeable in sleep apnea and how you can better help your patients and the treatment options you offer.

Sleep apnea and gout can be reduced in many people by losing weight if they are overweight, eating healthy, and indulging in alcohol and red meats in moderation. Please feel free to contact me for more information on sleep apnea, how treatment can help and the best continuing education options. Let’s not ignore these new findings and continue to help our patients receive the best care available.