April is National Stress Awareness Month. If you’re like most people dental health may not be the first thing on your mind when it comes to stress management but studies show that stress can contribute to a myriad of oral health issues. While the stress itself can be mitigated through a stress management program, for many dental health issues you will need to reach out to your dentist to correct the impact to your dental health.
Neglect is the most likely and immediate effect of stress on oral healthcare. It’s more than forgetting to flush and rushed brushing when stress kicks into overdrive; all of the sugary sweet comfort foods affect our teeth too. Stress that leads to laxity will likely lead to more stress that can create a detrimental cycle. Routine is key to managing your oral health when you fall prey to stress. Create a low maintenance morning and evening hygiene routine so that the habit is already there.
When stress is mentioned in relation to dental health, teeth grinding is often the first thing that comes to mind. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, often occurs while sleeping. While it can be caused by a sleep disorder or misaligned and missing teeth, stress and anxiety may also be the culprit of your clenched jaw. An achy jaw or flat, worn teeth are signs that you may have bruxism. Over time, grinding and clenching can lead to increased risk of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Symptoms range from clicking or popping in the jaw to severe pain and loss of mobility.
You may not realize it, but gingivitis could be another clue that stress has taken a toll on your dental health. Prolonged stress and anxiety creates cortisol that can lower the immune system and increase your chance of inflammation. This inflammation could very well prompt infection that may lead to gingivitis. Here again, neglect is a contributor to the risk so proper oral hygiene is paramount in reducing the risk of gum disease.
Canker sores, also called mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers, are small red or white sores that generally occur within the mouth. Though often caused by irritation or trauma, studies show that stress alone may be a factor. Perhaps the likelihood of increased inflammation lends itself to the recurring sores. These harmless mouth ulcers aren’t contagious, but they can be quite painful. Often canker sores will disappear on their own, but you may need to see a doctor in cases of severe ulcers.
There are many stressors lurking in today’s world. A dedicated self-care and hygiene routine is important to combat stress and keep dental and overall health in check. If you think that your dental problems may be linked to stress and anxiety talk to your dentist about what you can do to reduce stress and relieve related dental issues.