Surprising Ways Stress Can Affect Your Oral Health

June 23, 2021

oral health

Many of us know all too well the different problems stress can cause for our bodies. It is well-known that there are many health problems related to stress. From heart problems to oral health challenges, stress can cause a range of issues. You might have a stomachache when stressed or experience a headache, or becomes anxious. Did you realize how many ways stress can affect what is going on in your mouth? We’ll look at the various ways that stress can negatively affect your oral health, as well as what you can do about it.

Conditions Stress Causes in the Mouth

These are a few of the conditions that stress can cause in your mouth.

Teeth Grinding

Often called bruxism, teeth grinding can cause many problems in what would otherwise be considered a healthy mouth. Grinding and clenching can damage the enamel, as well as cause jaw pain and headaches. In extreme cases, it can even lead your teeth to become loose, broken, or fall out.

Many people suffer from grinding when they sleep, so they do not know they are doing it. If this is something you are living with, ask Dr. Dhiraj Sharma about it. Then, he will help you get a mouth guard to protect your teeth from damage.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When a person is dealing with a lot of stress, they may stop brushing their teeth and flossing regularly. This can be from an overly busy life or if their stress has caused them to slip into depression. When you start skimping on your dental hygiene, you can end up with more problems in your mouth, which will lead to more stress. Before you know it, you could have gum disease and tooth decay.

Jaw Issues, Including TMJ

When a person is dealing with stress, they often start clenching their jaw. This can lead to joint problems and jaw disorders. There are also quite a few people who report having pain in their ear and face caused by their holding all their stress in their jaws.

TMJ is just one of the jaw disorders that can result from stress. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints we use when moving our lower jaw. These are just under our ears. The TMJ disorder can develop from the joints swelling or becoming stiff, and you may notice symptoms like popping, clicking, or pain.

Lowered Immune System and Gum Disease

Stress can lead to a lowered immune response, which will increase your risk of periodontal or gum disease. Gum disease can cause swollen gums and bleed. Both conditions are extremely uncomfortable to deal with. They can also lead to bad breath, which can be embarrassing.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a side effect of stress. Many of the medications doctors often prescribe to treat stress-related problems also cause dry mouth. This is problematic because saliva is the first combatant to bacteria in the mouth. When there is less saliva, there is more tooth decay, infection, and gum disease.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome refers to when your mouth feels hot and dry, along with a burning sensation. It can come from stress or anxiety.

Oral Sores and Infections

Many people will start to see small ulcers in their mouths when they are suffering from too much stress. They may also start to see more red and white spots as well as white lines, all caused by stress.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 herpes simplex virus. Many times, the triggers are dental treatment, sunlight, or stress. While these sores are generally harmless, they can be painful. These usually clear up within a couple of weeks. However, if they do not, talk to your dentist, who may prescribe a rinse, gel, or another topical treatment.

In addition to stress, other potential triggers for cold sores include vitamin B deficiency, mouth irritation, and mouth injury.

Nail Biting

You may not think of nail biting as a dental health issue, but it can cause several problems. This stress-related habit can shift your teeth, so they are no longer in the ideal position. It can also cause damage to the teeth directly. Yet another risk is spreading germs that were in your fingernails to your mouth, where they can cause infections. If you have warts on your hands, those can even spread to your mouth.

Tooth Decay

A combination of the above factors can all contribute to tooth decay. The biggest culprits in the above list are the risk of gum disease from a weakened immune system, dry mouth, and poor oral hygiene habits.

Different Methods to Help Ease Your Symptoms

There are a few options to help address your stress-caused conditions. If you can manage your stress better, it will help. Meditation, yoga, music, and eliminating factors that cause stress can ease the symptoms. You should also do your best to get enough sleep at night and a healthy amount of exercise.

If you are dealing with cold sores, try to stay out of the sun or make it a point to wear sunscreen. You can also prevent some cold sores with antiviral drugs.

Remember coping with stress by using alcohol or tobacco will only aggravate the problems and make your oral health worse. If you are dealing with pain, consider some therapeutic massage.

When dealing with jaw pain, try to avoid crunchy or hard foods, as these will worsen the condition. You can also talk to your dentist about anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the jaw joint inflammation that is likely causing your pain.

For those who are living with teeth grinding, consider getting a nightguard fitted to your mouth. This will prevent your teeth from grinding against each other. It can also reduce the stress and pain on your joints and muscles in the mouth by creating a cushion.

Everyone dealing with stress should do their best to stay on top of their regular oral hygiene routine. This means brushing twice each day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist in Lincoln Park at least twice a year for checkups and professional cleanings.


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