Stress is a powerful force that can leave our bodies vulnerable to all sorts of medical problems. Countless studies have shown that stress can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and reproductive problems. At the same time, stress can also jeopardize our oral health in the following ways.
Bruxism refers to chronic jaw clenching and teeth grinding. While it often occurs in relation to sleep disorders, bruxism can also occur as a result of an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth. Stress and anxiety can also cause people to habitually grind their teeth or clench their jaws. Typical signs of bruxism include:
- Tongue indentations
- Flattened tips of the teeth
- Tooth sensitivity due to thinning enamel
Anger, nervous tension and frustration can cause people to develop bruxism without even knowing it. Your dentist can alert you of a potential problem after a thorough examination.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) impact the jaw joint and associated muscles in the neck and jaw. Stress can aggravate TMD by causing the overuse of jaw muscles, due to clenching or grinding. Even if you don’t show symptoms of bruxism, you may still experience other signs of TMD, such as discomfort, popping and clicking in the jaw. If you experience any of these symptoms, check with your dentist.
A lot of compelling research has shown that stress can increase the risk and severity of gum disease. While they don’t know for sure, researchers believe it has something to do with the way stress hampers our immune systems, which fight the bacteria that cause gum disease. Whether it’s due to work issues, family problems, marital conflict or some other issue; any type of stress can leave you more vulnerable to periodontal disease. During high-stress periods, it’s important to maintain good brushing habits and visit your dentist for a thorough examination.
Also known as mouth ulcers, canker sores are usually caused by some sort of mild physical trauma. In some instances, however, they can also be triggered by stress. According to research appearing in General Dentistry, subjects showed a higher prevalence of canker sores during stressful periods and fewer during periods of lower stress.
The most effective way to reduce the negative effects of stress is to remove the source of stress. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Even in high-stress situations, you can help manage anxiety and tension by using proven strategies such as yoga and meditation.
Depending on your specific issues, your dentist can also recommend effective treatments. For instance, if you have bruxism, you can use a custom mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. For temporomandibular joint disorders, you may benefit from orthodontic treatment or another type of treatment designed to address issues that may be magnifying orofacial pain.