Is stress affecting your smile?
Nine out of ten women admit to being stressed according to a survey commissioned by wellbeing fragrance brand Neom. No surprise there, but what did surprise us is that stress – due to all types of life changes and pressures – is causing more people to grind their teeth during sleep (bruxism). Over the past five years, Dr. Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of the London Smiling Dental Group (www.londonsmiling.com), has seen a steep increase in patients with bruxism. ‘Grinding wears enamel and weakens teeth but it also leads to many people suffering headaches, jaw, neck and shoulder pain, which are not diagnosed as related to their teeth.’
Custom-made hard splints are a simple, noninvasive way to reduce the intensity and frequency of grinding. A bespoke splint typically takes two weeks to produce and adjust. Dr. Okoye advises against wearing the soft splints available over the counter for longer than two days – and then only if you are in intense pain. ‘Wearing them for longer may make things worse as the splint creates a soft surface for your teeth to grind on, and may increase the frequency.’
Dr. Okoye also recommends the ‘smile stretch’ to alleviate jaw tension and relax facial muscles. Smile as widely as you can and open your jaw about two inches; breathe deeply through your mouth, then relax and repeat several times. Yawning with your mouth wide open also helps stretch the muscles. You might also try the ‘cluck’: open your mouth about a finger width, then curl the tip of your tongue back to touch your palate and cluck! Keep your jaw steady while you repeat ten times.
Kristen McKenzie, Neom’s therapeutic massage expert, suggests this technique: ‘Place your fingertips either side of your lower jaw and slowly push skin upwards until you reach your hairline. Do this for two minutes or so to calm the nervous system. Then place your fingertips in front of your ears with your little fingers near the corners of your mouth. Gently draw little circles with your fingertips, letting your jaw fall open. Repeat several times while breathing slowly, using more pressure (unless it hurts) until your jaw relaxes.’
We are also fans of Neom’s Scent To Instantly De-Stress products from the new Make Time To Stop, On The Go Essentials collection, a blend of 24 oils including lavender, jasmine and Brazilian rosewood. Our tester can’t tolerate artificial fragrances, which make a headache worse but says, ‘These natural scents are wonderfully calm-inducing; I particularly like the Intensive Stress Relief Treatment [£8/www.neomorganics.com/maketime from 18th July], which you put on pulse points and lasts for up to three hours.’
If you are flying for two hours or more, consider taking Zinopin Long-Haul (£19.92 for ten capsules, enough for one return flight, www.victoriahealth.com) to help reduce the risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis). This supplement contains extracts of ginger root and pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark), which are both natural anti-clotting agents. Consultant vascular surgeon and pilot Dr. John Scurr formulated it in response to his patients’ needs. Don’t forget to keep wiggling your legs and walking around as well.
• NB Zinopin is not recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding; if you are on any medication, check with your doctor.
A reader who developed thrush on holiday – ‘probably after sitting around in a wet bikini’ – has found that the Bio-Kult probiotic (£14.95 for 60 capsules, www.bio-kult.com) she takes to avoid traveller’s tummy seems toward off thrush too. Interestingly, although many brands advise taking these ‘good’ bacteria-containing products with food, recent research by Dr. Simon Gaisford of University College London School of Pharmacy found that taking them on an empty stomach gave the bacteria the best chance of surviving exposure to stomach acid and thriving in the gut.
In that study, the top performing probiotic was Symprove (£21.95 for 500ml, www.victoriahealth.com), a multi-strain, non-dairy drink, which was developed and successfully trialled for irritable bowel syndrome.