The hustle and bustle of modern life mean that stress and anxiety are on the rise, which is leading to a raft of health issues, including muscle tension, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and depression. Can stress affect teeth as well, though?
Stress can impact any of us, and living with it can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues and can severely impact your oral health. How does stress affect teeth? We thought we would take a closer look.
How does stress affect teeth?
Keeping your teeth and gums in the best possible health possible is essential in ensuring your smile remains radiant. Stress affects teeth in a range of ways, but some of the most common issues include:
One of the most common ways that stress can impact your oral health is by making you grind your teeth more frequently. Grinding your teeth, or bruxism to give it its medical term, is when you unconsciously clench your teeth or grind your teeth together as your jaw moves back and forth.
Grinding your teeth typically occurs overnight while you are sleeping, which can cause significant wear and tear on your teeth over time. It can also cause them to crack and break as well as cause issues such as headache, jaw pain, and sensitivity.
Although tooth grinding is more common while you are asleep, it can also occur during the day, especially when you are stressed. If you are noticing any of the signs that you might be clenching your teeth, then you should first look at strategies to help you reduce stress and anxiety. You should also speak to your dentist, who could help you with a custom mouthguard to minimize the wear and tear.
Another common way that stress affects teeth is through painful canker sores. These ulcers appear on the soft tissue of your mouth, and although research is ongoing into what causes them, stress has been proven to increase their risk.
One of the reasons behind this is due to the way stress impacts our immune system. The theory is that as our immune system begins to attack the lining in our mouth, which causes the ulcers to appear.
Thankfully, most canker sores will heal on their own in around ten days, although they can be very painful during that period. Reducing stress is the best way to ensure that these sores do not appear, but to reduce the discomfort and quicken the healing process, you can use over-the-counter treatments or rinse your mouth with saltwater.
Everyone has experienced dry mouth before, but if you are regularly experiencing dry mouth, it could be due to stress. Research has found that anxiety and stress reduce the amount of saliva that your glands produce, while individuals are also more likely to breathe through their mouth more, further drying it out.
Although dry mouth might not seem like a major issue, it can be very harmful to your oral health. Saliva is responsible for washing away food debris and bacteria, so a lack of production can increase the risk of developing cavities.
Ensuring you stay hydrated is a great way to ensure your mouth remains healthy, but you can also use specialist mouthwash. If you continue to experience dry mouth, then you should speak to your dentist to find out if there is an underlying condition that could be causing it.
Gum Disease and Infection
Another common way that stress affects teeth is through gum disease and infection. When we are stressed, it impacts our immune system and weakens our ability to fight off disease. This means that individuals are more susceptible to conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss.
Managing your stress is vital to reducing the risk of developing gum disease and infection. Maintaining good oral hygiene is also vital, so you should ensure that you are brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing between your teeth daily. This will help to remove bacteria and plaque, reducing the risk of developing cavities.
Oral Hygiene Neglect
Of course, it is not just a disease that can impact our oral health. When we are stressed, we are more likely to neglect ourselves due to a lack of energy and mental capacity. Simple tasks such as brushing our teeth are often among the first things that get forgotten when we are stressed.
Not only that, but when we are stressed, our body tends to crave sugary foods. This can be very harmful to your teeth in the long run, leading to gum disease, bad breath, and cavities.
Top tips for dealing with stress
While it is clear that stress does affect your oral health, there are some tips that you can do to help ease the impact it has on your teeth. There are many ways that you can reduce stress, including:
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get active and exercise. Any form of physical activity can be a great reliever, and it helps to release endorphins and other chemicals which can help to improve your mood and wellbeing.
When we are stressed, it can be very easy to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar. These can impact your body negatively, which is why it is important that you are making sure that you are eating healthily and have a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
It can be hard to find the time for yourself in the hustle and bustle of modern life. That is why meditation is a great way to help you reduce stress. Taking ten minutes a day to focus on yourself can help to create a sense of calm and inner peace that will ease your stress and give you more clarity.
Talk to people
The saying a problem shared is a problem halved is true, and it is very important that if you are feeling stressed, you communicate with friends and family. Social contact is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood.
Get enough sleep
Another great way to reduce stress is to ensure that you are getting enough sleep every night. Sleep is essential to ensuring that your brain and body have a chance to recharge and recover. Getting enough sleep will also help to enhance your mood and improve your energy levels.
So, does stress affect teeth?
If you are feeling stressed, then it is important that you take the steps to reduce its impact on your health. Sustained levels of stress can be very harmful to your oral health and can lead to serious tooth disease and even tooth loss.
If you are experiencing any issues with your teeth due to stress, then it is important that you visit your dentist to prevent permanent damage.