Stress has many negative affects on people in physical, emotional, and mental forms. Believe it or not, one of the physical tolls stress can have on you is on your teeth. Stress and anxiety can potentially cause harm to your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Life stressors can potentially lead to the following affects on your oral health:
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Mouth sores, which includes canker or cold sores
- Unhealthy eating routines and poor oral hygiene
- Gum disease or worsening of existing gum disease
Clenching or Grinding of Teeth
Anxiety or stress can cause you to want to grind your teeth during the day and unconsciously at night. This habit is known as bruxism and can lead to some pretty serious problems for your teeth and temporomandibular joint. This is the joint where your skull and lower jaw meet.
If you find yourself grinding or clenching during the day, stop the pattern and relieve the stress in another way. Grab a stick of sugar free gum, which can actually be beneficial to your teeth. If you grind at night, speak to your dentist about getting a mouth guard or another device to help minimize this behavior.
Sores in the Mouth
Although the cause of canker sores is unknown, it is believed that stress, along with fatigue or allergies, can increase the chance of suffering from one. They appear as small ulcers with a white or grayish base surrounded in red. Most sores will disappear in 7-10 days, but over the counter topical solutions help to relieve the irritation. An adequate amount of sleep and less stress can help cut back on the frequency of sores as well.
Cold sores are another story all together and a bit trickier to tackle. They are caused by something more serious, the herpes simplex virus. A cold sore is a fluid filled blister that appears on or around the lips caused by a herpes break out. Emotional upsets, along with sunburn and fever, can cause an outbreak. Similar to canker sores, they will heal on their own in a week or so, but there are over the counter treatments available, as well as prescription antiviral drugs. Consult your doctor or dentist to determine which remedies would work best for your symptoms.
Unhealthy Eating Routines & Oral Hygiene
Stress and anxiety can both affect your mood and distract you from the important things in your life, such as brushing and flossing your teeth regularly. If you do not stay on top of your oral health, the results can be serious, such as gum disease or cavities.
In the day-to-day of life, with all of its stressors and distractions, a person’s eating habits tend to become more of convenience than health. Unfortunately, convenience doesn’t typically go hand in hand with health. People tend to hit the fast food drive through or go for the sugary drinks to get them through the day, which are the worst foods because they are high in sugars and can lead to tooth decay. If you are always in a rush, try to plan ahead and fill the house with “to go” fruits, veggies, and bottled water. Your teeth and gums will thank you!
It was noted in a study that stress causes an increase in dental plaque, even when high levels of stress are short term. This data was discovered during a study of people with dementia who experienced stress. Long-term, this build up leads to bleeding gums known as gingivitis, which can result in serious gum disease. The study further concluded that people who are depressed have twice the risk of an unfavorable outcome from gum disease treatment compared to those who did not suffer from depression.
Keep in mind that eating a well-balanced diet, visiting your dentist every six months, and brushing and flossing regularly greatly reduce the risks of periodontal disease.