Stress isn’t good for anyone’s health but did you know it also can cause major damage to your teeth? From WebMD, find out what dental issues you could be facing if you experience stress regularly.
How Stress Affects Your Oral Health
Canker sores — small ulcers with a white or grayish base and bordered in red — appear inside the mouth, sometimes in pairs or even greater numbers. Although experts aren’t sure what causes them — it could be immune system problems, bacteria, or viruses — they do think that stress, as well as fatigue and allergies, can increase the risk of getting them. Canker sores are not contagious.
Most canker sores disappear in a week to 10 days. For relief from the irritation, try over-the-counter topical anesthetics. To reduce irritation, don’t eat spicy, hot foods or foods with a high acid content, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits.
Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that often appear on or around the lips, but can also crop up under the nose or around the chin area. Emotional upset can trigger an outbreak. So can a fever, a sunburn, or skin abrasion.
Like canker sores, fever blisters often heal on their own in a week or so. Treatment is available, including over-the-counter remedies and prescription antiviral drugs. Ask your doctor or dentist if you could benefit from either. It’s important to start treatment as soon as you notice the cold sore forming.
Stress may make you clench and grind your teeth — during the day or at night, and often unconsciously. Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism.
If you already clench and grind your teeth, stress could make the habit worse. And, grinding your teeth can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet.
See your doctor and ask what can be done for the clenching and grinding. Your dentist may recommend a night guard, worn as you sleep, or another appliance to help you stop or minimize the actions.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Being under extreme stress may affect your mood and cause you to skip oral hygiene habits such as flossing and brushing.
If you don’t take care of your mouth, your teeth and overall oral health can suffer. If you already have gum disease, skipping daily hygiene may worsen the problem. If your mouth is in relatively good health, falling down on brushing and flossing can lead to gum disease or increase your risk of cavities. When under stress, you may also develop unhealthy eating habits, such as snacking on large amounts of sugary foods or drinks. These habits increase the risk for tooth decay and other problems.
Just reminding yourself of the importance of hygiene and healthy eating may help. Boosting or resuming your exercise routine can help you relieve stress and feel energized enough to tend to your oral hygiene and cook healthier meals. Exercise will also boost your immune system — and that, too, is good for your oral health.
Stress can cause an increase in dental plaque, even when the high stress levels are short term. That’s according to a study that evaluated people who cared for loved ones with dementia and who experienced stress. Long-term, the stress these caregivers felt boosted their risk of bleeding gums, or gingivitis, which can progress to serious gum disease.
Stress can lead to depression. And depressed patients, according to recent research, have twice the risk of an unfavorable outcome from gum disease treatment compared to those who aren’t depressed. You can’t make depression or the stress disappear, of course. But experts say that learning healthy coping strategies can help reduce the risk of gum problems getting worse. Healthy coping is “problem-focused” with active and practical strategies to deal with the stress and depression, experts say.
Remember, eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and good oral hygiene help reduce your risks of periodontal disease. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss daily.
As WebMD recommends, regular visits to Dental Health and Wellness Boston are key to keeping teeth healthy. With our unique approach to dentistry focusing on whole body wellness , as your Boston dentist, we are experienced in treating patients with a variety of larger health issues, from diabetes to eating disorders to stress. Request your appointment today and stop the dental issues associated with stress.