7 Ways That Stress Can Affect Your Oral Health
The impact of stress can cause a range of health problems that extend far beyond our mental and emotional state. From gut problems to a lowered immune response, long-term stress is proven to have a negative effect on our bodily health.
However, you may be surprised to learn that stress can also cause issues with our oral health, leading to problems with our mouth, teeth and gums. Read on to discover seven common oral health concerns that can be caused by stress.
1. Teeth grinding
Stress and anxiety are major causes of teeth grinding (known as bruxism), which often occurs while you’re asleep. Teeth grinding can cause pain in your head, neck and jaw, as well as damage to your teeth - in severe cases, grinding your teeth can cause them to become loose, broken or even fall out.
If you regularly grind your teeth, your dentist may recommend you wear a special mouth guard at night to protect your teeth from damage.
2. TMJ disorder
The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are located just below your ear on either side of your head and enable movement in your lower jaw. A TMJ disorder occurs when these joints become swollen or stiff, which often results from stress-induced jaw clenching or teeth grinding.
Symptoms of a TMJ disorder can include jaw pain, as well as a clicking or popping sound when you bite down. Your dentist can advise on the best treatment options for TMJ disorder, as well as helping you address the cause of the stress.
3. Canker sores
Canker sores are small white spots or ulcers that appear on the soft tissue of the mouth. While these sores are harmless, they can be painful and uncomfortable. As stress has been shown to be a major trigger for canker sores, finding ways to minimise stress and anxiety can help to reduce your likelihood of developing canker sores.
Your dentist may prescribe a gel or cream to help relieve the pain of canker sores, which usually clear up on their own within 1-2 weeks.
4. Gum disease
As stress can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system, you may be 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, and 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.
5. Dry mouth
Dry mouth syndrome can be caused by both stress itself as well as medications used to treat stress and depression. Dry mouth causes a reduction in saliva production in the mouth, which increases your risk of oral health issues including tooth decay and gum disease.
Talk to your local National Dental Care or DB Dental practitioner about the best way to treat dry mouth, which may include over the counter options as well as prescribed medications from your dentist.
6. Tooth decay
Long-term or excessive stress can make it difficult to keep up with healthy habits such as brushing or flossing your teeth, which in turn can lead to oral health issues such as tooth decay.
What’s more, using substances such as tobacco or alcohol to deal with stress can also contribute to dental health issues, so it’s important to talk to a health professional about ways to manage stress.
7. Nail biting
Stress can often cause people to bite their nails - a habit that’s bad news for your oral health. By transferring germs from your fingernails to your mouth, nail biting can lead to mouth infections, as well as spreading viruses and bacteria from your hands to the rest of your body. What’s more, nail biting can damage teeth and even cause them to move out of their position.
There are many treatments available to help people stop biting their nails, so chat to your dentist or doctor about the best option for you.
If you’re concerned about the effect of stress on your oral health, talk to your local National Dental Care or DB Dental dentist - you can book online today.