We know that sustained high levels of stress can cause a range of mental and physical problems.
When we experience stressful situations, cortisol in our bodies increases, generating more of this hormone, leading our bodies to weaken our immune systems and making us more prone to disease.
In fact, links have been found between stress and such serious conditions as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and, of course, mental health problems such as depression.
Although it may not sound as serious as some of the above conditions, stress also directly affects oral health, leading to a number of different pathologies:
Among the many symptoms of stress in the mouth, gum disease can cause teeth to lose support.
Other oral health problems manifest themselves as bleeding gums, bad breath, and headaches.
Addressing oral health problems may not eliminate the stress, but it can help prevent the problem from getting worse and also prevent much more serious problems in the future.
One consequence of stress is bruxism. Jaw pain, joint pain and tooth sensitivity can occur in times of stress. Stress that leads to teeth grinding can be a factor that limits the quality of sleep at night, again a side effect that only serves to fuel the “stress cycle”.
Fortunately, teeth grinding can be treated at home with the help of a dental professional who will provide guidelines for home treatment and consider the fitting of a mouthguard.
Stress and poor dental hygiene
People who suffer from stress have a greater tendency to neglect their general health and also their oral health.
A person under stress may neglect brushing their teeth, not floss, or systematically perform a superficial brushing of their teeth. It can also lead to habitual ingestion of foods that are considered “treats”, particularly those that are high in sugar and harmful to enamel.
Stress and oral health: how to deal with problems
Lack of restful sleep caused by excess cortisol leads to tiredness, which people try to compensate for by indulging in coffee and tobacco in order to get going. Addressing oral health is a step towards slowing the progression of stress and also ensuring that, when stress subsides, it has not caused long-term damage.
It starts with good oral hygiene and being aware of habits that help such as regular brushing, flossing, interdental brushing, avoiding excess sugar and excessive smoking and drinking alcohol. It is also essential to have regular check-ups with a dentist and professional treatments with a hygienist.
Regular check-ups with your dentist will not solve stress, but it can help to combat its effects on your mouth in time to stop further damage.
In addition, going to the dentist can be a source of peace of mind by ensuring that any oral problems that may have been caused by the stressful episode are corrected, without further consequences.