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Oral Anxiety: 5 Mindfulness Practices for Coping With Stress

Your mental health can have a huge impact on your overall health, including the health of your teeth and mouth. Oral anxiety isn’t being stressed, anxious, or depressed about your oral health. Instead, oral anxiety is the effects these mental health problems end up having on your oral health. This is especially true if you struggle with depression.

Mindfulness may be able to help you cope with oral anxiety and avoid issues like dry mouth and bruxism. Mindful breathing can help center you in moments of stress. Body scanning and mindful movement can help develop your mind-body connection. Mindful eating can teach you to be present in the moment. Your morning and evening oral care routine creates the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness as bookends to your day.

What is oral anxiety?

If you struggle with anxiety and depression, then you’re more likely to suffer from certain oral health issues than others. These include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Canker sores
  • Bruxism
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Mouth ulcers

More concerning is that people suffering from depression and anxiety may neglect regular oral care. This includes neglecting to brush, floss, and making your regular dental appointments. Talk to us about any anxiety disorders you may have, as well as any medications you may be taking since they can affect your oral health, as well.

1.  Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is one of the most basic mindfulness skills. It can be used as a form of meditation and function as an anchor in your stormy mind. The concept is simple enough — focus your attention on breathing. Pay attention to the way it feels as you inhale and exhale, and note it’s natural rhythm as air flows in and out of your body.

Mindful breathing is a helpful practice since it can be done just about anywhere at any time. Whether you’re sitting in traffic or trying to calm down before your dental appointment, this little trick can help you combat your stress and anxiety.

2. Body Scanning

Stress can cause your body to tense up without you even realizing it. Body scanning is a form of meditation that helps you focus on your body and release tension from areas that you didn’t even realize were carrying it. By being more aware of your body, you can focus on relaxing areas of tension as well as learn what triggers your stress.

Start by using mindful breathing and focus on your feet. Slowly move upward, paying attention to any pain or discomfort you may find. When you do, continue to breathe and visualize the stress being released by your breathing. Move on when you feel comfortable and move upwards, repeating the process.

3. Mindful Eating

Like other mindfulness practices, mindful eating is about being present in the moment. By focusing on the act of eating, you engage with the different feelings and textures food produces. This creates a sense of appreciation as well as the ability to tell the difference between true hunger and eating out of boredom.

Don’t rush when practicing mindful eating. Instead, take your time and remove distractions like your TV or phone. Chew thoroughly, making sure to use all your senses to taste, smell, and feel your food. You should also pay attention to how your food makes you feel during and after eating. This can result in a healthier relationship with your food over time.

4. Mindful Movement

Unlike body scanning, which requires the body to be still, mindful movement is about being aware when you move. This is especially helpful if sitting still isn’t your strongest quality. Like with mindful eating, you want to be completely present during the exercise, so block out distractions to tune into your body. 

Consider your purpose when practicing mindful movement and use it for motivation and focus. Focus on your breath to avoid distractions as you pay attention to how your body feels as you move. If you’re exercising, make sure to practice kindness with yourself. Appreciate what you’re able to do while also pushing yourself a little bit harder. 

5. Putting Them All Together: Making Your Oral Care Routine Into an Opportunity for Mindfulness

It can be difficult to feel grateful when living with depression and anxiety. One way to combat this is to incorporate mindful gratitude into your daily routine. Brushing your teeth serves as bookends to your day, making it the perfect time to cope with stress by practicing mindfulness. 

  1. Start by closing your eyes and relaxing your jaw and neck. 
  2. Take three deep breaths, making sure to inhale through your nose.
  3. Open your eyes and continue to breathe deeply as you start flossing.
  4. Think of something that you’re grateful for as you floss between each tooth. This can be anything that has made you feel positive, whether it be a sunny day or not hitting any red lights on your drive to work.
  5. Rinse and start brushing your teeth. Set a timer to ensure that you brush for the full two minutes. 
  6. Relax your shoulders and keep a loose grip on your brush. 
  7. Be mentally present as you brush your teeth. Picture each tooth in your mind as you brush it. Focus on sensations like the taste of your toothpaste and the feeling of the bristles on your gums.
  8. After you’ve rinsed, take a moment and notice how clean your teeth look and feel. Smile at yourself in the mirror and take another breath before proceeding with the rest of your morning or nightly routine.

Combining different mindfulness practices can help with your oral anxiety. Center yourself amidst stress using mindful breathing. Body scanning and mindful movement can be used to develop bodily awareness and help you learn where to relax. Mindful eating can turn eating from basic survival into an exercise in being present in the moment. Combine all of these practices into your morning and evening brushing routine as bookends to your day.

Are you concerned that oral anxiety may be impacting your dental health? Contact us today to schedule your next checkup!

Arlington Family Dental is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m, Monday through Thursday to help with all your dental needs. Call us at (229) 725 – 4545 or schedule an appointment online.

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