Stress does not only take toll on our body causing headaches, migraines, anxiety and lack of sleep. Stress also has devastating effect on our oral health, including our mouth, teeth, and gums.
The most visible mouth problems caused by stress are mouth sores, canker sores and cold sores. Mouth sores can occur anywhere in the mouth. Canker sores are small grey or white ulcers that appear in the mouth. They are not contagious. However, they can be quite painful and embarrassing. Cold sores (or fever blisters) are caused by herpes simplex virus and they are contagious. All of them are triggered by stress. Luckily, nowadays there are treatments available, just consult your dentist as soon as you notice an outbreak.
The connection between our mind and body is so strong that stress weakens the entire immune system, making us more vulnerable to all sorts of infections and colds. When our body faces stress, periodontitis (gum disease) can occur and an existing one can worsen. Periodontitis can eventually lead to tooth loss and other health problems, such as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
The condition of stress, sadness and depression often make people neglect certain daily things, as well as their dental hygiene. Poor dental hygiene causes tooth decay and bad breath. Also, some depression and stress medications can cause dry mouth. If you experience dry mouth due to certain medications, you should talk to your dentist. Dry mouth, i.e. the lack of saliva in the mouth, should not be ignored because saliva is a natural tooth protection fluid. Without saliva tooth decay cannot be prevented. Also, stress and stress hormones cause our saliva to change making it less efficient in protecting our teeth.
When under stress people usually tend to eat a bad diet, including fast food, sugary and acidic foods and drinks. The consequences of such dietary habits on our teeth are very well known – tooth decay, cracked teeth, teeth sensitivity and tooth loss. Stress and anxiety often trigger bad habits like chewing your nails, ice, pencils, or other hard, inedible objects. This wears teeth down causing damage to our teeth and may lead to tooth breakage.
Stressful situations cause some people to respond through body language, which sometimes results in teeth grinding – clenching and grinding teeth against one other back and forth. We often do it unconsciously or during sleep (sleep bruxism), but teeth grinding can have harmful impact on our teeth and jaw. It can not only wear down and damage your teeth, they may also cause temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ) and consequently severe jaw and neck pain. Chronic teeth grinding can cause tooth cracking, loosening, and in the most severe cases even tooth loss. To stop teeth grinding, your dentist can provide you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding at night and you should also change some of the habits like drinking too much caffeine and alcohol.
While stress appears to have become an inevitable part of our lives, there are ways to fight it and prevent all its negative consequences. We only need to work through whatever causes us stress. Introducing healthy habits and being conscious about the impact of stress may help us put an end to its harmful effects on our entire body. Stress relief can significantly improve your overall health and well-being, including your oral health.