How Stress Affects Oral Health
In childhood we learn that too much sugar and not enough brushing will lead to painfully poor dental health. But a common complaint of adulthood can also undermine your best efforts at excellent oral health: stress.
Stress. It’s an instigator in all sorts of health ailments, from ulcers to heart disease. And now we can add the following to the list of potential problems this health degrader can cause:
- Canker sores
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
- Ignoring dental hygiene
- Periodontal (gum) disease
Ideally, you’ll identify the source of your stress and work to eliminate it if at all possible. But until you have that nailed down, you can take steps to reduce the effects of stress on your oral health. Here are a few tips for taking care of yourself despite the stressors in your life:
Canker sores are small ulcers that appear inside your mouth; they have a white or gray base and are often raised to form a small bump. Experts aren’t sure what causes these mouth sores, but many medical professionals believe that stress plays a role in outbreaks. They are not contagious (unlike cold sores or fever blisters, which are a form of herpes and are contagious), just irritating.
When canker sores develop, avoid spicy or acidic foods and try over-the-counter remedies for quick relief. Most canker sores will heal on their own within 10 days.
Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching
Stress is generally the culprit when it comes to day or nighttime teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Either habit (subconscious or not) can lead to TMD.
Be sure to tell your dentist if you grind your teeth or clench your jaw. She may recommend a night guard or other appliance to keep conditions from worsening.
Ignoring Dental Hygiene
Extreme stress can cause people to skip brushing, flossing, and seeing a dentist regularly. Stress can also lead to degraded eating habits, which will further impact dental health.
Make dental hygiene a priority and a habit. If you work brushing and flossing into your daily routine at regular times, you’re more likely to stick to the regime. Surround yourself with people who support healthy habits and do what you can to keep healthy foods within easy reach. Talk to your dentist about other ways to ensure your dental health doesn’t suffer when stress levels rise dramatically.
Unfortunately, plaque builds quickly so even short-term stress can impact the health of your gums. But long-term stress is even more worrisome and can lead to gingivitis. A serious health concern, gingivitis can lead to tooth loss, heart disease, stroke and lung disease.
The only solution for keeping gums healthy is daily brushing and flossing as well as visiting your dentist at least twice a year. No matter what is causing the stress in your life, don’t let it impact your overall health irreversibly.
If you’re experiencing extreme stress and believe your oral health is at risk, call our office today for a consultation. We can help you get back on the road to a healthy mouth.