How Stress Affects Your Oral Health

It’s no secret that stress and anxiety can have an impact on your mental wellness. But did you know that stress can also lead to oral health issues?

When we’re anxious, our brains send a number of different chemical responses throughout the body to fight off the perceived threat. This chemical response is commonly known as the “fight or flight response.” During this time, our bodies tense up, produce more glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream, and release adrenaline throughout our nervous systems.

The degree to which this process occurs depends on the extent to which you’re feeling stressed. Your response could be more of a slow burn or it could be a raging inferno. Either way, these responses can lead to negative effects for your oral health.

Let’s examine the ways in which your level of stress could be taking a toll on your dental health and how to address these potential health problems.

Teeth Grinding

Bruxism is a condition in which one grinds or clenches their teeth. Tooth grinding is most prevalent at night when the body is at rest and the subconscious mind takes over. Chronic stress is one of the more common factors that can lead to bruxism – along with misaligned teeth that don’t naturally fit together.

Stress leads to increased muscle tension. If your jaw muscles are tense, they may cause the teeth to clash and grind together.

How to address this issue: If you grind your teeth from misalignment, the best treatment option is Invisalign. Invisalign can realign your teeth to better fit your mouth and can also serve as a guard between your teeth when you’re asleep to prevent them from grinding together.

If you have aligned teeth but experience grinding, consider getting fitted for a custom night guard. Night guards are similar to retainers or Invisalign in that they are plastic cases to put over your teeth. They can be either hard or soft and serve as a physical barrier between your teeth to stop them from clenching together at night.

Increased Risk for Gum Disease

Stress takes a heavy toll on your immune system. While your body is focused on responding to whatever is causing you stress, harmful bacteria can take root in your mouth and lead to Gingivitis – and eventually gum disease.

How to address this issue: The best way to prevent gum disease is to maintain a good dental hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing your teeth and gums regularly will reduce the amount of bacteria that builds up in your mouth, making your body’s job much easier. You should also consider switching to an electric toothbrush for better results.

Mouth Sores

Canker sores frequently form during times of stress because of your body’s decreased immune response. Canker sores can be annoying at best and painful at worst, but they’re not dangerous. Regardless, nobody enjoys having mouth sores.

How to address this issue: Much like with gum disease, one of the best things you can do to prevent the buildup of bacteria that leads to the formation of mouth sores is to practice good dental hygiene habits. You can also prevent the formation of mouth sores by avoiding hot, acidic, and spicy foods. Smoking tobacco is another risk factor for the formation of canker sores.

Mouth Dryness & Tooth Decay

Saliva is one of the best natural defenses against cavities and tooth decay. As saliva flows, it takes bacteria with it out of your mouth and into your digestive system. Proper hydration is crucial for the formation of saliva.

Stress and anxiety can interrupt your mouth’s natural saliva production. Additionally, common medications for stress can lead to dry mouth and lessened saliva production.

How to address this issue: As with many of the other potential oral health issues caused by stress, practicing good dental hygiene can go a long way. You should also visit the dentist twice annually to ensure your mouth is cleaned regularly so you don’t develop cavities. Also, it’s important to stay hydrated so your mouth is able to produce normal levels of saliva to keep bacteria at bay.

TMJ Disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are characterized by aching joints in the jaw near the ear where the jaw connects to the skull. Common symptoms include jaw pain, chewing difficulties, and a clicking sound made by the jaw. Bruxism is a common cause of TMJ disorders, which makes stress a potential hazard as well.

How to address this issue: Wearing a night guard to prevent unnatural jaw movements can help prevent TMJ disorders. If you play hard contact sports, you should also consider wearing a mouthguard while you play to protect your teeth and jaws from jarring and disruptive contact or movements.

Additionally, Loudoun Smile Center offers Fotona laser treatment, a facial procedure that tightens and smoothens the skin. This procedure can help treat TMJ disorders as well as canker sores.

Loudoun Smile Center provides quality dental care to patients all across the D.C. metro area. If you’re looking for a new home for your dental care, give us a call today!