While we may all react to stress differently when our immune system is weakened, it triggers our brain to seek comfort foods or form unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. These damaging habits can place your oral health at risk.
Early detection of oral health issues can help save your gums, teeth, and jaws from the long-term effects of stress. Talk to your dentist about your overall health so they can address the impact of stress on your dental health.
Even when you are stressed, it is still important to visit your dentist every six months. This can help your dentist identify any signs of stress on your oral health, which may include:
1. Poor Oral Hygiene
When stressed, self-care becomes less important, and indulging in mind-boosting foods high in carbs, sugar, and caffeine brings comfort. An imbalanced diet and inattention to an oral hygiene routine can cause plaque buildup, caries, and even tooth loss.
2. Dry Mouth
Saliva removes food particles from teeth, keeps teeth moist, remineralizes enamel, and helps fight bacteria. But when you are stressed, you experience reduced saliva production resulting in more plaque buildup and an increased likelihood of dental issues. Overuse of alcohol and tobacco can also cause dry mouth leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
3. Clenched Jaws
Muscle tension helps guard the body against injury and pain, but constant muscle tension in your jaw from chronic stress can cause TMJ. This condition causes pain in your jaws and around your ears. You may experience difficulty opening your mouth or chewing food and hear a clicking noise in your temporomandibular joint.
4. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding or bruxism is a common action when you are stressed and anxious. Most people are unaware they are grinding their teeth, especially at night while they sleep. Teeth grinding causes significant wear and tear on your teeth, resulting in chipped or loose teeth, tooth sensitivity, tongue indentations, and pain in your temples.
5. Decreased Immune Response
When you are stressed, your immune system is compromised, making it harder for your body to fight infections. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol triggers protein production in the gums that causes inflammation increasing your chances of developing gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
6. Cold Sore Blisters
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are usually inactive unless triggered by stress. While herpes simplex typically manifests as lesions on the lips or corners of the mouth, they can also appear on your gums which can make it challenging to brush and floss.
Cold sores tend to last between 5-7 days, and refraining from brushing for such a long period puts you at a high risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
7. Canker Sores
Canker sores are mouth ulcers that occur inside the mouth. They can be triggered by overzealous toothbrushing and biting your cheek, eating highly acidic foods, and smoking, but also by stress.
Maintaining Your Oral Health When Stressed is Important
The best way to fight the negative effects of stress on your oral and overall health is to remove the source. If that is not possible, yoga, meditation, journaling, exercise, or counseling may help reduce your tension.
Your dentist can also recommend specific treatment based on your symptoms. For example, they may schedule more frequent dental cleanings, orthodontic treatment to correct teeth alignment or fit you for a nightguard to combat bruxism.
It’s also important to follow a good oral hygiene routine. Continue to brush twice a day, floss and use mouthwash, and have your teeth and gums evaluated regularly by your dentist.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment and learn how we can help you halt the effects of stress on your oral health.