Modern life may have delivered various advancements to promote human convenience, but it has also made stress an unavoidable part of day-to-day living. While stress is part of the body’s natural reaction to pressure or challenges and can motivate you to perform your tasks efficiently, it can turn into a problem when you become stressed for extended periods.
Unfortunately, this can take a toll on your overall health — including that of your teeth and gums. Dealing with stress and learning to manage it effectively will allow you to curb its negative effects.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the emotional or physical tension you feel when you are subjected to “stressors”, which are events, thoughts, or situations that incite excitement, anger, frustration, or anxiety. Stressors, when they occur in short bursts and manageable amounts, function as a catapult for positivity and productivity.
For instance, an upcoming presentation can cause stress but this will allow you to focus on improving your output so you can perform effectively. In this instance, stress spurs you to do your job well. This is called acute stress, which goes away quickly and should not affect your well-being.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, is a type of stress that lingers for a longer period of time. This can be brought about by different stressors like a family or health issue or major problems at work. Any stress that goes on for weeks is considered chronic. Because the body is not built to sustain stress for extended periods, chronic stress can cause various physical, psychological, and dental problems.
Relationship of Stress and Oral Health
Can stress really cause dental problems? The answer is yes. In addition to that stress-induced headache, you may also end up experiencing tooth or gum pain.
Various studies have shown that there is a strong link between stress and poor oral health. People with greater stress reported having worse oral health issues which can be aggravated by other factors. If you are under immense pressure and are constantly dealing with being stressed out, experts suggest that you closely monitor your oral health.
Oral Health Problems Due to Stress
Understanding how stress affects your teeth and gums will allow you to find treatment for your condition. Below are some of the oral health issues and stress symptoms that you may encounter:
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is the urge to clench and grind the teeth unconsciously, especially at night while you sleep. Stress can worsen teeth grinding and can lead to worse oral health issues including temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, which can wear down teeth and cause jaw pain.
Dentists recommend wearing a nightguard or other appliances when sleeping to curb the grinding. Appliances like Invisalign can also help keep the teeth from rubbing into each other during the day. Stress management is also a great way to control bruxism.
Canker sores are a common symptom of stress. Canker or mouth sores are characterized by a grayish or white base with red borders. You can have a single sore or multiple sores at once. They can be irritating and painful, making it difficult to eat, drink, and even talk.
Experts believe that canker sores are brought about due to problems in your immune system. People who are under a great deal of stress have reduced immunity, making them more prone to developing canker sores.
The sores will disappear in a few days. The best way to manage canker sores is to skip hot, spicy, and acidic food so as not to irritate it further. There are over-the-counter relief medicines that can ease the pain as well.
Cold sores are also referred to as fever blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus. The blisters are filled with fluid and typically show up on or around the lips, under the nose, and around the chin. Stress can trigger a breakout.
Like canker sores, the blisters will also heal on their own in a few days. However, while they are in their active state, they are communicable. Always seek treatment once you notice them forming. There are also over-the-counter remedies and prescription antiviral drugs to treat cold sores.
Stress can affect your immune system which makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections. Without regular dental checkups, gum disease typically goes undetected until its late stages. It can cause bleeding, bad breath, and tooth loss.
Gum disease can be managed with proper oral hygiene, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and dental treatments like root planing. Those prone to bruxism should avoid teeth grinding and jaw clenching to prevent damage. Patients who smoke are advised to quit. The best course of action is to see your dentist.
Burning mouth syndrome is a hot and burning feeling in the mouth often experienced when one is stressed, anxious, or depressed. Some older women experience burning mouth due to the fluctuating hormones brought about by menopause. For many, this can also be caused by stress-related smoking and drinking.
To keep the mouth from drying, drink adequate amounts of water. It’s also a good idea to quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake to keep from aggravating symptoms. Coping with stress through other activities may also help.
How to Relieve Stress
Because stress and oral health are closely connected, you need to get your stress under control. There are a variety of activities you can do to get some much-needed stress relief, including:
- Walking in nature
- Regular exercise
- Practicing deep breathing
- Practicing mindfulness
- Doing yoga
- Listening to music
- Getting enough sleep
- Talk it out with family and/or friends
- Eating well
Stress is a double-edged sword. While in the short-term, it can help you complete your tasks more efficiently, it can jeopardize your overall well-being if sustained for an extended period. Managing stress and working your way to becoming stress-free can help you care for your teeth better.
If you’ve been stressing out and believe it has taken a toll on your teeth, get in touch with Cosmo Dental Centre and come in for a dental check-up. We offer quality dental services to help restore your oral health. Set an appointment with our dentists by filling out the form on our website or calling us (519) 659-2767.