LIVING WELL WITH CANCER

Both my parents experienced the sudden change in life’s priorities associated with the diagnosis of inoperable cancer.  Suddenly, things that have occupied our mind, time and energy are reappraised in light of a stark reminder of life’s uncertainty and our mortality. Hope is kept alive by modern medicine’s remarkable results with conventional treatments and the fact that some individuals do much better than expected, even with serious and advanced cancer.

….FULL ARTICLE

MINDFULNESS AND GRATITUDE FOR YOUR AGING EYES

Most people say the gift of sight is their most valuable sense perception – and almost everyone experiences decline in visual function with aging. B One of the most common symptoms of aging is the decline in accommodation, the process by which the eye changes (accommodates) focus to maintain a clear image of objects at different distances. This decline often begins before age 50 years. Accommodation acts like an automatic reflex, but it can also be consciously controlled.

….FULL ARTICLE

THE MINDFUL GIFT OF LOVING KINDNESS

The holiday season is filled with emotion for most people. While this emotion is often happy, positive and loving, for many people it can be very unhappy and even depressing. Holiday music can trigger emotional associations with the absence of a loved one or unhappy memories from the past. The gap between the smiling faces of holiday ads and one’s unhappy emotional experience can actually lead to a deepening of the emotional darkness that often accompanies this season of lights.

….FULL ARTICLE

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STRESS AND ORAL HEALTH

For many people, there is a relationship between stress and oral health.


The presence of oral disease and dental disorders can cause stress from low self-image, which can have a negative effect on well-being and personal happiness. Stress, chronic anxiety and depression can lead to self-neglect, including neglect of dental hygiene. For many people, dental self-care is not a high priority. It is especially common for stressful economic times to be associated with lapses in the proper oral hygiene habits of regular brushing and flossing of teeth and professional dental exams. Turning to sugar-laden comfort foods for stress relief can also lead to dental caries (tooth decay).


Emotional disorders and stress at home or work can lead to the excess production of dental plaque, which in turn can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, leading to gingivitis and bleeding gums. A highly emotional response to financial hardship, in particular, has been shown to increase gum disease. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, and Kentucky ranks first or second nationally in tooth loss. A healthy diet, regular brushing, flossing, anti-bacterial mouth rinses and regular dental evaluations can save your teeth.


Stress can increase the frequency of canker sores. Also known as aphthous ulcers, these painful lesions occur inside the

mouth and are not contagious. Students often have more canker sores during the school year than during holidays and summer vacation. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are contagious, painful blisters around the lips, nose or chin caused by the herpes virus. Stress is a common trigger for these blisters. Though canker sores and cold sores resolve with or without medication, their resolution and their prevention can be helped by healthy approaches to stress management.


Stress, worry, anxiety and anger can also lead to bruxism, the clenching and grinding of the teeth during sleep or while awake. This grinding of the teeth can eventually lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ problems can cause popping or clicking of the jaw when opening the mouth or chewing. It can also cause facial pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint, neck, shoulders and around the ear when chewing, speaking or opening the mouth. A custom-made dental bite guard may be required to prevent damage to the teeth and the TMJ from frequent grinding. Individuals may be unaware of their teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Signs include flattening of the tips of the teeth and increased dental sensitivity from loss of dental enamel.

There are many ways to help prevent stress from having an adverse impact on your dental health. You can probably find something on this list that fits your lifestyle and personal preferences. To help you manage stress:


•  Try to reduce your exposure to the circumstances, patterns of thinking, habits, people or other sources of your stress.

•  Seek financial, emotional or pastoral counseling to help you deal rationally, thoughtfully and methodically with your stress rather than    self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and overconsumption of unhealthy foods.

•  To reduce mental and emotional stress, connect more with your body through your preferred physical activity – walking, jogging,    swimming, yoga, dancing or sports.

•  Practice daily skilled relaxation, meditation or prayer.

•  Spend some time each evening reading inspirational material that uplifts your spirits.

•  Keep a daily gratitude journal (count your blessings).

•  Get a massage.

•  Hug a loved one.

•  Play with children and animals.

•  Spend unhurried time in nature.

•  Do something for others who are less fortunate. Generosity is good for both the giver and the receiver.

•  Participate in social and community activities that reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.


There are several resources that offer self-directed approaches to stress management. They do not take the place of professional help should your burden of stress feel overwhelming or get worse over time. Speak with your dental or medical provider for a professional stress management referral if your self-care strategies are not helping. Your dental health as well as your overall health may depend on how effectively you manage your stress.


Sources and Resources


•  Stressed out? Your Dentist Can Tell

•  How stress affects your oral health

•  Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind Body Medicine guides a ‘soft belly meditation

•  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘single pointed meditation’ led by Peg Baim of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

more articles by dr john patterson