Stress and Oral Health – Understanding the Impact

In the business of everyday life, stress has become an inevitable part of many people’s lives. From work deadlines to personal responsibilities, stress can manifest in various forms and affect different aspects of our health. An area often overlooked is our oral health. Stress can cause havoc to our teeth and gums.

The link between Oral Health and Stress

When we get stressed, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’). This hormonal surge can lead to a range of physical responses, including a raise in blood pressure, increase in heart rate and even changes to our immune function. Stress can exacerbate existing dental problems and contribute to the development of new ones.

Teeth Grinding/Bruxism

    A common manifestation of stress on oral health is bruxism, a condition that involves grinding or clenching teeth, often during sleep. This habit can lead to excessive wear and of teeth, enamel erosion, jaw pain and sometimes headaches. In time, untreated bruxism can result in significant damage to teeth. Persistent bruxism and associated facial pain may need referral to an expert in facial pain management.

    Gum Disease

    Stress doesn’t just affect our teeth; it can take a toll on our gums too. Research shows that stress can weaken the bodies immune response, making it susceptible to infections, including periodontal disease. Several studies have found a strong between high levels of perceived stress and bleeding gums which is the first step on the road to periodontal disease. People with chronic stress may be more prone to neglecting their oral healthcare routines, increasing the risk of gum disease.

    Poor Oral Health Habits

    When stress levels are high, self-care routines often take a back seat. This includes simple practices like brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. Neglecting these habits can pave the way for dental plaque biofilm build-up, bad breath, and cavities. A recent Canadian study found oral/dental pain was consistently reported more frequently in those reporting high levels of perceived stress but not as much amongst the same group if they had some form of dental insurance.

    Managing Stress for better Oral Health

    While you can’t avoid stress, there are ways to help that will have a positive impact on your oral health.

    • Stress Management Techniques – Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga or regular exercise can really help in reducing stress.
    • Regular Dental Visits – Don’t skip those appointments. It is advised to visit your dentist twice a year. Regular check-ups can help catch potential issues early and prevent them for worsening.
    • Healthy Lifestyle Choices – Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and limiting consumption of alcohol and caffeine can help.
    • Seek Support – Do not hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed.