7 Ways Stress Affects Dental Health
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Believe it or not, stress can have a big impact on the overall health of your mouth. At Prescott Dentistry, we believe that the health of the body and the mouth are connected—that what’s happening in the mouth is a reflection of what’s happening in the whole body. We often think about the effects of stress on the rest of the body, while ignoring the connection between stress and dental health. Here are some of the things to be mindful of during this stressful time we are all facing right now:
1. Mouth sores
Mouth sores are painful and annoying, and depending on their location, they can be embarrassing. Canker sores, or ulcers, which can appear inside or outside of the mouth, are often caused by stress—although there can be other causes like hormone changes, allergies, or nutritional deficiencies.
Cold sores are fluid-filled sores, typically appearing on the lips, and are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores can only be flared by stress if you already have the herpes virus.
2. TMJ issues
Stress and anxiety can cause you to unconsciously clench the muscles in your face and jaw. It can also cause you to grind your teeth while you’re sleeping. Both of these things can lead to jaw pain or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues.
3. Poor oral hygiene
When we’re stressed, we all tend to let certain parts of our routines fall away. Proper oral hygiene may be one of the first things many of us forget about during stressful times. Be sure to remember to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Setting an alarm might help you remember. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent a dental emergency.
4. Poor nutrition
Stress also often negatively impacts the way that we eat, which in turn greatly affects our oral health. We all know sugar is bad for our teeth. But what you might not know is that highly processed foods that are high in sugar and fat are more likely to create an acidic environment in the mouth. That acidic environment creates an ideal situation for bacteria to grow. Acid can strip the enamel, which serves as a protective layer for the teeth, making your teeth more susceptible to bacteria.
Eating foods rich in calcium and magnesium, especially during times of stress, is important to prevent this acidity from developing. Green leafy vegetables and bananas are great sources of these essential minerals.
5. Dry mouth
Stress and anxiety can cause dry mouth. There are several reasons for this—when you are experiencing anxiety you may be more likely to breathe through your mouth; some anxiety medications can cause dry mouth; and when you are stressed, you’re more likely to be dehydrated, as it is easier to forget to drink water throughout the day.
Saliva is the first defense against tooth decay. When your saliva runs low you are at a higher risk for getting cavities and decay. Drinking plenty of water helps dry mouth. Not only does it keep the mouth moist, it also stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva, promoting moisture throughout the day.
Stress can also lead to bruxism, or tooth grinding in your sleep. Since you may not even be aware that your teeth and jaw are working overtime while you’re sleeping, symptoms to look for are headaches, unexplained facial pain, a sore or tight jaw, neck aches, and earaches. If you are experiencing any of these, let us know. A mouthguard may be necessary, or we can discuss other ways to minimize damage.
7. Gum disease
Stress can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to gum disease. A literature review that looked at studies conducted between 1990 and 2006 indicated a positive correlation between stress/psychological factors and gum disease.
The connection between stress and dental health has the potential to affect everyone, especially now. Be sure to take care of your mental health through activities like yoga, meditation or walking—and keep up with your oral hygiene. Our team at Prescott Dentistry looks forward to seeing all of our clients for routine preventative dental care soon. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe and please do give us a call if you need emergency dental care!