Don’t Let Stress Zap Your Teeth!
How Stress Affects Your Oral Health
Source: Web MD
Too much stress affects your whole body, including your mouth, teeth, and gums.
The potential impact includes:
- Mouth sores, such as canker sores and cold sores
- Clenching or grinding your teeth
- Not taking care of your teeth
- Eating a bad diet
- Gum (periodontal) disease or worsening of existing periodontal disease
- Bad habits like chewing your nails, ice, pencils, or other objects
You can prevent these oral health problems, if you know what to do.
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. Experts aren’t sure what causes them. It could be immune system problems, bacteria, or viruses. But they do think that stress, as well as fatigue and allergies, can increase the chance of getting them. Canker sores are not contagious.
What to do: To reduce irritation, don’t eat spicy, hot foods or foods with a high acid content, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits. Most canker sores disappear in a week to 10 days. For relief, try over-the-counter topical anesthetics.
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.
Emotional upset can trigger an outbreak. So can a fever, a sunburn, or skin abrasion.
What to do: Like canker sores, fever blisters often heal on their own in a week or so, but since the virus that causes them can be spread, you should start treatment as soon as you notice the cold sore forming. Medications include over-the-counter remedies and prescription antiviral drugs. Ask your doctor or dentist if you could benefit from either.
Stress may make you clench and grind your teeth — during the day or at night, and often subconsciously. 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.
What to do: 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 brushing, flossing, and rinsing.
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 make it worse. If your mouth is healthy, falling short on these tasks can lead to gum disease or make cavities more likely.
When you’re stressed, you may also develop unhealthy eating habits, such as snacking on large amounts of sugary foods or drinks. This can put you at risk for tooth decay and other problems.
What to do: Just reminding yourself of the importance of hygiene and healthy eating may help. A regular exercise routine can relieve stress, rev up your energy levels, and encourage you to eat healthier. It may even make you more likely to tend to your mouth.
Even short-term stress can mean more dental plaque.
Long-term, the stress can boost the likelihood of bleeding gums, or gingivitis, which can progress to serious gum disease.
What to do: Remember, eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly, and good oral hygiene help keep gum disease at bay. Brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Use an antibacterial mouth rinse twice a day to also help reduce plaque-causing bacteria.
Children’s Dental Center believes that education is the key to preventing childhood tooth decay. We’re committed to providing a forum where parents and pediatric dental professionals can discuss preventative dental care. We encourage parents, educators and doctors to check back frequently for more fun facts, articles and activities!