Did you know that stress can affect your oral health? A Canadian study found that people with perceived psychological stress reported poorer oral health. Also, research shows a correlation between stress, anxiety, depression and oral health problems. It's important to discover the cause of psychological stress to protect your oral health and overall well-being.
How Does Stress Affect My Oral Health?
Stress can affect your oral health in several ways, which include:
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism occurs when a person unconsciously grinds or clenches their teeth. Stress-induced teeth grinding may occur during the day, when a person feels stressed or dwells on a problem. It may also occur at night during sleep. Symptoms of teeth grinding include:
- Abraded, chipped, or cracked teeth
- Jaw dislocation
- Pain in the face or near the ear
- Sensitive teeth
- Tense facial or jaw muscles
- Tooth enamel wear
Your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted night guard to prevent tooth damage.
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
If you feel stressed or distracted, you may forget to brush and floss, or if you feel depressed, you might not feel like it. Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Another sign of stress is white lines, or white or red spots in the mouth, which may indicate an oral infection.
Ulcers (Canker Sores) in the Mouth From Stress
Canker sores are painful ulcers that occur in the soft tissues of the mouth. They often appear as small white spots inside the mouth and usually disappear in 1 to 2 weeks. Psychological stress can trigger canker sores so it's important to reduce stress to minimize their occurrence. Your dentist may prescribe a topical medicine to help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.
People who experience psychological stress or who take medications to reduce stress, or depression may develop dry mouth. Symptoms of dry mouth include reduced saliva production increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Some people who are stressed bite their fingernails. Unfortunately, stress-induced nail biting can transfer germs from your nails to your mouth, which can cause mouth infections. Nail chewing can spread germs from your nails to your mouth to your body. Also, biting your nails can damage tooth enamel and cause teeth to move out of proper alignment.
What Causes Stress?
Common causes of psychological stress include:
- Job stressors
- Arguments with friends, family or loved ones
- Experiencing a long-term illness
- Feeling pressured to complete several tasks in a short amount of time
- Financial problems
- Long-term caregiving
- The death of a loved one
It's essential to figure out why you're stressed. Talk to your dentist or primary care doctor about how you're feeling. Self-care is the first step to improving your oral health and overall wellness.