Stress is a common cause of health problems, and your oral health is no exception. Stress may contribute to teeth grinding, gum disease, dry mouth and canker sores and may also impact your oral health routine and diet—increasing your risk of tooth decay.

While we may all react to stress differently when our immune system is weakened, it triggers our brain to seek comfort foods or form unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. These damaging habits can place your oral health at risk.

Early detection of oral health issues can help save your gums, teeth, and jaws from the long-term effects of stress. Talk to your dentist about your overall health so they can address the impact of stress on your dental health.

Even when you are stressed, it is still important to visit your dentist every six months. This can help your dentist identify any signs of stress on your oral health, which may include:

Poor Oral Hygiene

When stressed, self-care becomes less important, and indulging in mind-boosting foods high in carbs, sugar, and caffeine brings comfort. An imbalanced diet and inattention to an oral hygiene routine can cause plaque buildup, caries, and even tooth loss.

Dry Mouth

Saliva removes food particles from teeth, keeps teeth moist, remineralizes enamel, and helps fight bacteria. But when you are stressed, you experience reduced saliva production resulting in more plaque buildup and an increased likelihood of dental issues. Overuse of alcohol and tobacco can also cause dry mouth leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Dry mouth is a side effect of stress as well as the medicines used to treat stress and depression.

Clenched Jaws

Muscle tension helps guard the body against injury and pain, but constant muscle tension in your jaw from chronic stress can cause TMJ. This condition causes pain in your jaws and around your ears. You may experience difficulty opening your mouth or chewing food and hear a clicking noise in your temporomandibular joint.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding or bruxism is a common action when you are stressed and anxious. Most people are unaware they are grinding their teeth, especially at night while they sleep. Teeth grinding causes significant wear and tear on your teeth, resulting in chipped or loose teeth, tooth sensitivity, tongue indentations, and pain in your temples.

Decreased Immune Response

When you are stressed, your immune system is compromised, making it harder for your body to fight infections. High level of stress hormone of cortisol trigger protein production in the gum that causes inflammation increasing your chances of developing gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.

Cold Sore Blisters

Cold sore is cause by virus and are usually inactive unless triggered by stress. While herpes simplex typically manifests as lesions on the lips or corners of the mouth, they can also appear on your gums which can make it challenging to brush and floss.

Cold sores tend to last between 5-7 days, and refraining from brushing for such a long period puts you at a high risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

Canker Sores

Canker sores are mouth ulcers that occur inside the mouth. They can be triggered by overzealous toothbrushing and biting your cheek, eating highly acidic foods, and smoking, but also by stress.

Symptoms of Stress on oral health

The effects of stress on your oral health starts unconsciously. Not until you feel pain or see damages in your teeth that you’ll realize the negative implications of stress in your oral health.

Early detection of your body responses during distress can still save your teeth, gums, and jaws. Check if you’re having signs of the following oral health conditions:

  • Pain in your jaws
  • Locked jaws
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth
  • Noises from jaws joint
  • Difficulty in chewing
  • Pain around your ears
  • Chipped teeth or loose teeth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Tight jaws
  • Teeth-grinding noises while sleeping
  • Pain in the temple

Maintaining Your Oral Health When Stressed is Important

The best way to fight the negative effects of stress on your oral and overall health is to remove the source. If that is not possible, meditation, journaling, exercise, or counseling may help reduce your tension.

Your dentist can also recommend specific treatment based on your symptoms. For example, they may schedule more frequent dental cleanings, orthodontic treatment to correct teeth alignment or fit you for a nightguard to combat bruxism.

It’s also important to follow a good oral hygiene routine. Continue to brush twice a day, floss and use mouthwash, and have your teeth and gum checked regularly by your dentist.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and learn how we can help you halt the effects of stress on your oral health.

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