Feeling stressed? Research has shown that 75% of Americans face moderate to highly stressful situations on a regular basis. Luckily our bodies are designed to handle short term stress. But prolonged or chronic stress can have major health consequences, sometimes leading to heart issues, high blood pressure, headaches and depression.
Did you know that too much stress can also cause serious problems with your mouth, teeth and gums?
How stress affects your oral health
Here are ways stress can lead to serious effects on our oral health and general health:
Is having your-boss-is-in-your-face making you clench your jaw repeatedly all-day every day? Clenching your jaw can lead to a temporomandibular disorder, creating pain in your jaw and around your ears. If you are experiencing difficulty opening your mouth or chewing food and hear a clicking noise in your temporomandibular joint, see your dentist.
Many people aren’t even aware they’re grinding their teeth, especially at night when they’re asleep. Teeth grinding or bruxism causes significant wear and tear on your teeth, resulting in chipped or loose teeth, tooth sensitivity and pain in your temples.
Call your dentist about getting a custom fitted nightguard to reduce teeth grinding. A night guard also creates a cushion to remove stress on aching jaw muscles and joint tissues.
Cold sores are caused by a herpes complex virus and are also called fever blisters. Triggered by stress, they often show up as ulcers on or around your lips and sometimes appear under your nose and around your chin.
They often heal on their own and tend to last around 5-7 days, but are contagious. You can try over the counter remedies or get a prescription of antiviral drugs from your doctor or dentist.
Stress can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system, making you more at risk of infections of the mouth such as gum disease. Gum disease can cause a range of symptoms, including bleeding and swollen gums, as well as bad breath. In severe cases, gum disease can cause tooth loss.
Depending on the severity of your gum disease, you may need to see a dental specialist called a periodontist who will be able to treat the infection and prevent further damage.
Anxiety often leads to poor diet choices. We overindulge in gummy bears (speaking for myself), chocolate or other tooth unfriendly sugary choices. Brushing and flossing after snacking is often the last thing a stressed person wants to do. Neglecting your dental health leads to tooth decay and cavities.
Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. They’re caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking and not cleaning your teeth. If left untreated the cavity can spread into the deep layers of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
The Bottom Line
Stress is an uncomfortable feeling, but so is going to the dentist and needing to get a cavity filled or, even worse, needing a root canal. Remind yourself that brushing and flossing 2x a day is a way easier alternative!
Finding ways to decrease stress will lead to better overall and oral health. Here are some basic stress busting suggestions:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet
- Practice deep breathing exercises
- Get 7-8 hours sleep per night.