Got stress? It’s impossible to imagine any modern lifestyle without at least some periods of anxiety and stress. We know that it’s important to keep a close eye on our stress levels, since it has been shown that stress can be related to serious illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma. But did you know that stress can be bad for your oral health?
The Relationship Between Stress and Oral Health
Is stress bad for your oral health? The answer may surprise you! Major anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias and panic attacks can impact dental health, but it has been found that even “normal” levels of stress can have an effect on your teeth and gums. Oral health issues that may be related to or at least worsened by stress include dry mouth, canker sores, TMJ, burning mouth syndrome and even lichen planus. That last one is a skin rash, triggered by one’s immune system, that can show up in the mouth as white lines, red spots or ulcers.
Anxiety, Anti-Anxiety Medications and Dental Health
It is believed that anxiety and stress can weaken the immune system, which in turn may cause or exacerbate many problems in the body, including periodontal disease and tooth loss. In addition to that, anti-anxiety medications have been known to cause dehydration and dry mouth. Reduced saliva is a problem for dental health, since one’s saliva contains essential minerals that help prevent plaque.
Dental Health Symptoms Caused by Stress
Canker Sores (Cold Sores) may appear if you nervously bite your cheek or if you brush your teeth too hard. A study of students by the Academy of General Dentistry found a rise in canker sores that dropped off when the students were on break or had graduated, suggesting a direct link between stress and cold sores.
Gum Disease is another dental condition that may have a link to stress. In a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, it was found that daily stress played a vital role in the development of gum disease among adults, especially when they were stressed out about finances.
Bruxism is the scientific term for clenching one’s jaw or grinding one’s teeth. This can be due to a sleep disorder, crooked or missing teeth or an abnormal bite. But it can also be caused or made worse by anxiety and stress. Though it often happens during sleep, it can also occur when one is frustrated, tense or angry. Look for flattened areas of the teeth, rubbed-off tooth enamel, tongue indentations or teeth that are very sensitive. Jaw pain may be another sign of bruxism.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder, which may or may not involve bruxism, is another oral condition that may be caused or aggravated by stress. If you experience any jaw pain, have trouble opening and closing your mouth or hear a clicking sound when you eat, you might have TMJ. Let your dentist know!
Managing Stress for Your Dental Health
When it comes to your dental health, dealing with stress is a two-pronged approach. First, you should always be practicing good dental hygiene, especially during the more stressful times in your life. Daily brushing, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash and seeing your dentist for regular check-ups are extremely important. You can also try to manage your stress with daily exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques. Find the most effective relaxation therapy for your individual needs. Whether it’s listening to soothing music, practicing yoga, going for a walk in the woods, getting a massage or speaking to a counselor, you’ll find that keeping your stress level low will have massive benefits for your overall health — and that includes your teeth and gums!