Most adults encounter stress regularly. While we know stress can impact your overall health, stress and oral health are also intimately connected. Issues like depression, stress, and anxiety can affect your teeth and oral health.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, almost two-thirds of people diagnosed with depression reported experiencing a toothache, and half of all clinically depressed individuals rated the condition of their teeth as fair or poor.
The Connection Between Stress and Oral Health
Keeping up with a strict oral care routine can be challenging for people with an inordinate amount of stress. People with mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, or depression are also more likely to eat poorly and miss regular dental visits.
There’s a hormonal component to stress as well, which indirectly impacts oral health. When stress levels rise, there’s a spike in the body’s stress hormone – cortisol – which weakens the immune system. With low immunity, the bacteria in the mouth can cause inflammation and infection in the gums.
Some antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or other mental health medications can cause dry mouth, reducing saliva to clear away food debris after eating.
Oral Health Conditions Caused by Stress
Stress can affect your oral health in many ways, including:
When we’re under stress, we may clench our jaw unconsciously in response. Muscle tension is important to guard the body against injury and pain, but constant muscle tension in the jaw can cause temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). This condition leads to pain in the jaw and around the ears. Over time, it can worsen to difficulty opening your mouth or chewing food comfortably.
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a common response to stress and anxiety. Most people are unaware that they grind their teeth, especially if it occurs during sleep. Teeth grinding causes significant wear and tear on the teeth, which may lead to tooth sensitivity, chipped or loose teeth, pain in the temples, tongue indentations, and damage to the molars.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Self-care often goes out the window when we’re stressed or overwhelmed. This may include oral hygiene like brushing and flossing or eating a poor diet with a lot of sugar. The combination of an unhealthy diet and poor oral hygiene can lead to plaque buildup, cavities, or tooth loss.
Canker Sores or Oral Infections
Canker sores are mouth ulcers that occur on the gums, tongue, or inside of the cheeks. They can be triggered by multiple things, including overly vigorous brushing, highly acidic foods, and smoking, but stress is another possibility. These are minor and often go away on their own, but they can be extremely uncomfortable.
Stress compromises your immune system. When your body isn’t capable of fighting infection from high cortisol levels, you’re more likely to develop gingivitis or periodontitis, a more severe gum disease. You may also have sores like ulcers, white or red spots, or white lines on the gums or inside of the cheeks.
How to Care for Your Teeth
If you’re constantly anxious and stressed out, it may be more difficult to establish and maintain a good oral health routine. However, your teeth and gums in good health, is vital for overall health.
Commit to brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily. You should also use mouthwash to rinse away debris and eliminate harmful bacteria. If you’re struggling to remember oral hygiene on a busy day, set alarms to remind yourself to brush and floss. Consider adopting strategies to reduce your stress level.
Manage Your Oral Health with Our Dental Office in Albion
Mental health issues like stress and anxiety affect far more than your mind. Left untreated, your oral health can lead to the onset of gum disease and tooth decay. If you need help addressing your oral health, contact us to schedule an appointment! 585-589-9044