Stress and oral health
Stress is a silent killer. It’s been recognised as contributing to conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, obesity, headaches, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s, aging and ultimately death. So, it’s pretty clear that anything we can do to reduce stress is a good thing - but many of us give little thought as to how stress affects the health of our mouth.
Here’s seven ways stress can affect your oral hygiene:
Stress and anxiety can cause you to grind your teeth while you’re asleep and this is known as Bruxism. It’s a habit that can cause permanent damage to your teeth, as clenching and grinding can chip teeth and wear down enamel. Clenching and grinding your teeth can make jaw muscles sore, making it hard to open and close your mouth or bite and chew food.
Poor eating habits
When we’re stressed and anxious, sometimes we turn to bad foods to comfort us. Sugary foods are not only bad for our teeth, they can increase the risk of developing cavities.
Bad dental habits
If you’re stressed out it’s likely that practicing a good daily oral care routine probably isn’t high on your agenda. By neglecting brushing and flossing you may become more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.
Stress negatively affects the hormones in your body. One way it does this is by reducing the production of saliva. A frequently dry mouth can harm your teeth as it allows plaque to build up on teeth faster, leading to a higher risk of cavities. A lack of moisture can also lead to your tongue becoming very sensitive.
Another way hormones can affect your teeth is by decreasing your body’s immunity to infection and ulcers may begin to appear in your mouth. Ulcers make it even more difficult to follow your oral hygiene routine. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy is a key part to helping ulcers heal.
Affecting your body’s ability to heal
Stress changes the way our body is naturally able to heal. If you have a dental procedure done, it may not be as effective if you are dealing with considerable stress. Impairing the healing process can also make you more susceptible to infection when healing.
Interfering with routine visits to the dentist or orthodontist
While professional dental care should always be one of our main priorities, you’re less likely to take it seriously when you’re stressed. Missing appointments for examinations, a scale and clean, or an orthodontic adjustment may mean a greater risk of cavities, gingivitis, periodontal infection and more serious problems in the future if not attended to. Your orthodontic treatment will likely be extended if your orthodontic adjustments are regularly rescheduled.
Everyone experiences stress but your overall health and oral health can be affected if stress is extreme or consistent. If you’re feeling stressed, speak to a healthcare provider or medical professional for assistance. They will be able to point you towards active, practical strategies to overcome or manage the challenges you face.
Similarly, your dentist knows how stress affects your oral health and seeing your dentist or oral hygienist regularly will be able to help you manage and enhance your oral routine during stressful periods.
This Australian Society of Orthodontists' blog post was based on content supplied by Wilkinson Orthodontics.