How Does Stress Impact My Dental Health?

How Stress Can Cause Significant Damage to Your Oral Health

We all know stress is bad for our health. You may be aware of the physical and emotional symptoms of stress such as headaches, stomachaches, and anxiety. But did you know that stress does not only have psychological effects, but it can also create significant physical impacts, including oral health issues? Stress isn’t just detrimental to your overall health, it can also cause serious damage to your oral health. Here are a few reasons Cardinal Dental believes you can protect and promote your dental health by managing your stress.

What Oral Conditions Are Caused by Stress?

Scientific studies have shown that stress can impact your oral health in a number of ways:

Stress Can Increase Your Risk for Gum Disease

Have you ever noticed how stress can wear you out? Your immune system, your body’s natural defense mechanism against disease and infection, can become depleted by stress. An immune system worn down by stress is vulnerable when it comes to your oral health. Harmful bacteria in your mouth seize the opportunity to wreak havoc on your gums, and this can ultimately cause an infection of the gums known as gingivitis. Gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress into gum disease, a very serious oral health condition.

Stress Can Lead to Teeth Grinding

Have you ever noticed yourself clenching your teeth when you’re stressed out? Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is commonly associated with stress and most often occurs during your sleep. Teeth grinding can also happen during the day, especially during intense concentration. Many teeth-grinders do not even realize they are doing it. Teeth grinding can be very problematic for your oral health, particularly your teeth and jaw. The dental enamel on teeth becomes worn down, causing damage to the teeth, and jaw issues, including TMJ syndrome and other disorders of the jaw joint or chewing muscles, can occur, causing pain around the ear or face.

Stress Can Cause Mouth Sores

Have you ever had a canker sore or mouth ulcer? Oral infections or sores, which may show up as ulcers, white lines, or white or red spots, can be brought on by stress and most often occur as a result of a depleted immune system. These can be painful, and can make it difficult to speak and chew. If you are getting oral infections or sores often, it may be the result of too much daily stress.

Stress Can Make Tooth Decay More Likely

Have you noticed you have poor health habits when stressed?Stress and tooth decay go hand-in-hand because when people are stressed, they tend to make poor choices regarding their health. This might include eating unhealthy foods, including starchy and sugary foods that can increase your likelihood of tooth decay, and giving less attention to daily hygiene routines. Both of these stress-induced behaviors can increase your chances of experiencing tooth decay.

Additionally, anyone who takes medications for chronic stress is also more at risk for dry mouth, or xerostomia. This oral health issue inhibits your saliva production, which is an important line of defense against the bacteria that cause cavities. Lack of sufficient saliva can ultimately lead to more tooth decay.

How Can I Reduce the Impacts of Stress on My Dental Health?

There are a number of ways to reduce the impacts of stress on your oral health: 

In order to reduce the impacts of stress on your dental health, it is critical to address the root causes of your stress. Once you are able to understand the causes of your stress, you can begin to strategize ways to lower your stress levels. At the same time, you can follow these steps to get relief for painful oral symptoms:

  • Talk to your dentist about treatment options.
  • Address teeth grinding by asking your dentist about getting a custom-fitted night guard. Night guards create a cushion to remove stress on your aching muscles and joint tissues, and can be worn at night to prevent tooth damage caused from grinding and clenching. 
  • Avoid hard or crunchy foods when you’re in pain.
  • Manage pain through gentle massage, physical therapy or pain relief medications.
  • Ask about prescription medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help inflammation of the jaw joint, and antiviral drugs may prevent cold sores.
  • Don’t use tobacco and/or alcohol to cope with symptoms. These products can make your oral health issues worse.

Stress can cause significant detrimental impacts to your overall and oral health. At Cardinal Dental in La Mesa, California, we are here to help you maintain your oral health, and we can help you treat your stress-related oral health issues. If you are experiencing any of the stress-related issues described here, please call us to talk to our dental team about your symptoms and how we can help. At Cardinal Dental, our patients value the gentle manner and professional approach of our doctors and hygienists, and our office’s clean, comfortable environment. Give us a call at (619) 345-7999 or click here to book an appointment today!