Modern life is filled with stressors, from juggling work and family commitments to dealing with the impacts of global events. Around 56% of American adults report that stress has impacted their lives at least once in the last year. And while mild, infrequent feelings of stress are normal, prolonged stress can have hidden consequences for your oral health.
The Science Behind Stress and Oral Health
Stress releases hormones like cortisol, which affects the immune system. A weakened immune system makes it easier for bacteria to thrive in your mouth, leading to dental issues. For instance, higher cortisol levels can contribute to gum inflammation, making you more susceptible to gum diseases.
Bruxism: Grinding Away Due to Stress
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is often linked to stress. While many do this unconsciously, especially during sleep, it can lead to severe dental issues, including:
- Tooth wear: Constant grinding erodes the enamel, exposing the sensitive inner parts of the teeth.
- Jaw pain: Chronic bruxism can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, causing jaw pain and difficulty opening or closing the mouth.
Canker Sores and Stress
While the exact cause of canker sores is still a topic of debate, there’s a widely accepted connection between their outbreak and increased stress levels. These small, painful ulcers inside the mouth can be a source of discomfort, although they are not harmful or contagious.
Neglected Oral Hygiene
Many individuals might skip or overlook their regular oral hygiene routine when stressed. This neglect can quickly lead to:
- Tooth decay: Without regular brushing and flossing, plaque builds up and hardens into tartar, leading to cavities.
- Gum diseases: Neglected oral care can allow food and bacteria to inflame gum tissue, leading to gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
Stress-induced Poor Nutrition
Under stress, people often crave sugary foods and drinks, which are detrimental to dental health. Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods can lead to tooth decay and enamel erosion.
Bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars in the food you eat. They produce acids as a byproduct that erodes the enamel, leading to cavities.
Ways to Combat the Effects of Stress on Oral Health
Protecting your oral health from stress requires a two-pronged approach: managing stress and maintaining oral hygiene.
- Stress management: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity can reduce stress levels.
- Maintain oral hygiene: Regardless of your stress level, never compromise your dental routine. Brush twice a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly.
- Use mouthguards: If you suffer from bruxism, consider using a mouthguard at night to protect your teeth from grinding. We can custom-fit an NTI-tss mouthguard to your bite for a precise and comfortable fit.
- Balanced diet: Opt for a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals and low in sugars and acids to maintain strong teeth and gums.
Safeguard Your Oral Health: Arrange a Check-Up Today
While stress is an inevitable part of life, its effects on our oral health don’t have to be. Recognizing the signs early and maintaining a strong oral hygiene routine can safeguard your smile, even during the most stressful times.
If you believe stress is impacting your oral health, it’s essential to consult with your dentist to create a plan tailored to your needs.