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7 Ways Stress Affects Your Oral Health

7 Ways Stress Affects Your Oral Health

No one enjoys being stressed. However, stress is more than just unpleasant or uncomfortable. It also has significant adverse effects on your body and oral health.

You should be aware of how stress impacts your oral health so you can take steps to protect your teeth and gums. These steps could be as simple as remembering to brush your teeth and eat healthily. In other cases, it can be helpful to speak to a dentist at your preferred dental office in Toronto.

How does stress affect your oral health?

1. Clenched jaws

When we get stressed, muscle tension often follows. Muscle tension is one of the body’s natural responses to stress. It’s a reflex reaction intended to protect against injury and pain. Chronic stress can manifest in extremely tight muscles in your jaws, leading to pain or TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction).

TMJD is a condition that affects the jaw joint. It can cause jaw pain, a clicking or popping sound, migraines, or dizziness. You may have a hard time opening your mouth, difficulty chewing, or experience locked jaws.

If TMJD is not treated, it can turn into a serious oral health condition with decreased function of the jaw muscles and joints.

2. Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Increased muscle tension in your jaws can also lead to teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Although bruxism can occur during the day, it also can happen at night as you sleep. This means that some people aren’t even aware that they’re grinding or clenching their night, damaging their teeth in the process.

The constant friction between your upper and lower teeth can do significant damage. It can wear down your tooth enamel, cause increased tooth sensitivity, loosen teeth, or lead to chips or cracks in your teeth.

You may experience soreness in your jaw, neck, and facial muscles or have frequent headaches or earaches. Untreated bruxism can also lead to the development of TMJ disorder.

Sleep bruxism is harder to detect; however, there are signs. For example, waking up with a headache or earache, feeling jaw soreness in the morning, or having sudden sleep disruption. Your partner may also hear you grinding and clenching your teeth throughout the night.

Therefore, it is important to address bruxism quickly to prevent damage to your teeth.

3. Dry mouth

The effects of stress on your nervous system can disrupt saliva production, resulting in dry mouth. Saliva is essential for your oral health, so it’s a big problem when your salivary glands stop working properly.

Saliva plays an important role in our mouths. It keeps teeth moist, fights bacteria, and washes away food particles and sugar residue. Without saliva, bacteria can get out of control, resulting in an acidic mouth environment that attacks your precious tooth enamel. You can experience tooth decay and gum disease as a result.

4. Canker sores

Canker sores are small, white spots found on the soft tissue of the mouth. These sores are harmless (and non-contagious), but they can be painful. In some cases, canker sores can make it hard to eat or talk.

When we experience intense or chronic stress, it compromises our body’s immune system. We then become more susceptible to developing canker sores (and other health conditions).

Most canker sores, however, go away on their own within 1–2 weeks. If you have a stubborn canker sore that refuses to disappear, your dentist may prescribe a topical treatment or rinse.

5. Gum infection

Gum infection, inflammation, and disease can also occur when your immune system is weakened by stress. Compromised immune systems have a hard time fighting off infection, which increases your risk of developing gum disease.

When our bodies are stressed, they release a hormone called cortisol. This triggers the production of protein in the gums, causing inflammation. Over time, chronic gum inflammation can result in gingivitis or periodontitis (different stages of gum disease).

Additionally, stress can lead to poor oral hygiene habits, further increasing the risk of gum disease.

6. Tooth decay

Cavities, also known as tooth decay, can be caused by stress-induced behaviours, notably poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and poor oral hygiene.

Consuming sugary or acidic foods and beverages can compromise your oral health. The naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth turn sugar into acid, which then wears down your tooth enamel. Acidic beverages (like alcohol) similarly erode your enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities and decay.

Furthermore, a weakened immune system makes it harder for your body to fight off oral bacteria. As bacteria growth increases unchecked, you’re more likely to develop tooth decay.

7. Poor dental hygiene

Lastly, high stress can cause us to neglect our oral hygiene practices. These habits are crucial for protecting our teeth and gums against inflammation, infection, decay, and disease.

Unfortunately, self-care and healthy habits often fade by the wayside when we’re dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. We become fixated on our problems, eat too much sugary comfort food, and forget to brush our teeth. This leads to lasting negative consequences, particularly for our teeth. An unhealthy diet combined with poor dental hygiene is a recipe for oral health issues.

Consequently, it’s very important that you stick to your dental hygiene habits, no matter what life throws at you. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss once per day, and drink plenty of water.

How can you manage stress?

Managing stress is very important for your oral health. Here are a few tips on reducing stress and keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

  • Have a mindfulness or meditation practice.
  • Get enough sleep. This helps reduce cortisol levels in your body.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.

Your dentist can also help you manage the adverse effects stress has on your oral health until your stress levels decrease. A nighttime mouthguard can protect your teeth from clenched jaws and teeth grinding. Professional cleanings (and regular examinations) combat plaque buildup, reducing your risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Bloor West Smiles: Toronto’s Premier Dental Office

Is your stress affecting your oral health? Talk to a dentist at Bloor West Smiles! We’re one of Toronto’s leading dental offices, providing quality care, and comprehensive services to our community. Our oral health services take care of your smile at every age!

To learn more about dental office in Toronto, call Bloor West Smiles at 647-371-1407 or contact us here.

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