Can Stress Really Cause Tooth Loss

Dr. Samantha Rawdin discusses the link between stress and tooth loss.

This past week, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon hosted actress Demi Moore. As an avid Tonight Show watcher, I (not-so-shamefully) pride myself on having deciphered the interview sequence they take with their guests:

Guest sits down. Jimmy welcomes guest. Jimmy brings up interesting, obscure detail about guest. Guest tells funny story having to do with interesting, obscure detail.

But this time, the story particularly caught my attention since they started talking about how said guest lost her two front teeth! Due to stress!

If you happened to watch the interview, and saw the part where Jimmy and Demi start praising modern dentistry, I know what you’re thinking. I should be thanking Jimmy for calling me a genius.THANKS JIMMY! Really appreciate the shout out. (Yea, yea. I know. He called all dentists geniuses. But a girl can dream, no?)

So yes. Modern dentistry is awesome. We can do really amazing things to replace teeth and make them look natural and beautiful. (Hence why I love my job.) BUT they didn’t really get to the core issue here. Demi Moore’s teeth fell out due to STRESS. As New Yorkers, it seems we’re always stressed. Should you be worried that one day you’ll just be walking down the street, all of a sudden you feel something fall out of your mouth, and when you look down you’re surprised to see it’s your tooth? In short, no. That’s really not how it happens.

Stress can manifest itself in the oral cavity in a few ways. The most common is bruxing, clenching or grinding your teeth. (Collectively, we call these parafunctions.) This habit can happen either at night while you sleep or during the day– especially while working out or dealing with an aggravating situation. If you continue with this habit for long enough, it will start to wear down your teeth. This does kind of sound like what Demi was saying in that she “sheared off” her teeth… but if you’re guilty of any of these habits, you typically see wear distributed on most, of not all of your teeth.

Interesting that the rest of Demi’s smile appears to be intact, no? Well I have another theory. My guess is that Demi suffers from a super common condition called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria that is not removed by regular dental cleanings travels down the root surface of the tooth, causing the gums and bone to be resorbed and thus reducing the stability of the teeth. Periodontal health is intimately linked to overall health. Stress, and all of the other systemic conditions that it is associated with, such as cardiovascular issues, nervous system issues and GI problems, can all exacerbate periodontal disease. This loss of support of the teeth in combination with stress and parafunctional habits can, in fact, cause your teeth to literally fall out of your head.

But, this isn’t something to freak out about. These changes occur over a long period of time. Bottom line? Make sure you see your dentist for regular check ups. Tracking these changes over time is the best way to diagnose early and treat any issues you might have before you start dropping teeth like coconuts falling from a tree.

I give Demi a ton of credit. In an industry where you’re supposed to be flawless all of the time, it must not be easy to plaster a photo of yourself all over the internet, sans one front tooth. It would be a very vulnerable state for anyone, let alone a movie star. Kudos to Demi for bringing the dental consequences of stress to the forefront of pop culture at her own expense.