Stress impacts the entire body. But many people fail to recognize the impact stress can have on their oral health. How does stress affect my oral health? Since the impacts of stress on the body and mouth aren’t obvious, regular dental exams and cleanings remain vital to finding these effects of stress and treating them. Whether caused by stress or not, helping people with dental issues is part of what we do at Matthews Family Dentistry.
Many people ask – does stress affect my oral health? Answer is – Yes! Most people already know the strain that emotional stress has on the body. Muscles tense, the heart races, and long-term cardiovascular problems could occur. However, the mouth and teeth also feel the impact of stress in several ways.
First, stress can lead to an individual experiencing dry mouth. When the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, bacteria can flourish. Additionally, those with dry mouths may also fail to keep up with regular dental care at home and by visiting the dentist. The stress in their lives may make keeping up with personal dental hygiene difficult due to time constraints and distracted, stressed thoughts.
Secondly, stress can cause people to feel the effects even during sleep. Tooth grinding increases the pressures that the teeth feel, especially if it happens at night when the individual cannot stop it. While treating tooth grinding with a night guard fitted by a dentist can help, it won’t address the root of the issue.
Third, stress can increase the chances of existing viral infections to flare up. Flares of cold sores or canker sores often have links to stress. Additionally, if you have preexisting chances of developing periodontal disease, excessive stress may trigger the development of this condition.
Stress can trigger several ailments or have a tangential relationship to them. These issues you need a doctor or dentist to address because they could cause long-term damage or complications.
Bruxism also goes by the term tooth grinding. People may grind their teeth or clench them during the day, especially when under stress. But, the worst form happens at night when tooth grinding goes on for several minutes at a time or longer. The person likely doesn’t know that they have this problem aside from a set of vague symptoms upon waking and a dentist’s suggestion based on the state of their teeth.
For instance, during an exam, a dentist may notice cracked teeth or worn surfaces that could indicate grinding of the teeth. The dentist may then ask the patient about symptoms of bruxism, such as neck soreness, tooth or jaw pain, aching in the face, fatigue, or tooth pain.
If diagnosed with bruxism, the patient will need to wear a night guard while sleeping. These custom-fitted pieces cushion the tooth surfaces, protecting them from damage caused by nighttime grinding.
The dentist may also need to repair cracked teeth caused by tooth grinding. Depending on the depth of the crack, they may offer restorative dentistry or another option.
Tooth decay requires bacteria in the mouth to occur. The decay happens from bacteria producing acid after feeding on sugar in the mouth from food particles. Regularly flossing and brushing removes most of the particles. Good saliva production also helps to neutralize the acids produced by the bacteria.
People who are under significant emotional stress frequently experience dry mouth due to the body’s stress response. Additionally, working extra long hours or fretting over their lives could knock people off their daily routines of brushing their teeth and flossing twice a day. Regular dental visits can also be difficult to remember when the mental fog of stress sets in.
The combination of a chronically dry mouth with neglected dental care increases the chances of tooth decay. A dentist needs to examine the mouth and take x-rays to see if the decay caused any cavities or other problems. The dentist will need to fill any cavities or place crowns on teeth that require this type of restoration. Then the patient will need to return to a strict regime of brushing and flossing to prevent future issues.
Tooth grinding or stress can cause individuals to bite the insides of their mouths or to have flares of existing herpes infections, causing cold sores. Canker sores also have an increased chance of appearing due to stress. See a doctor for any mouth sores that don’t heal within two weeks or for anyone who has mouth sores for the first time. Generally, most mouth sores respond well to conservative treatment by avoiding foods that increase the pain and waiting until the body heals.
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can happen more often in stressed individuals. Therefore, the need for regular dental cleanings is vital to preventing gum disease from taking hold, especially in stressful times. A dentist may require thorough deep cleaning or do other treatments to help reverse the patient’s gum disease.
Even after getting treatment for stress-related oral problems, the issues will come back unless the cause disappears. Developing a healthier lifestyle that balances work, life, friends, and family is a start. Meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet could help, too. For anyone still experiencing serious stress after making lifestyle changes, professional therapy could be a tool that may help to mitigate the effects of stress on health.
Everyone needs regular dental care. In fact, your dentist may be able to tell that you’ve been under stress based on their findings during an exam. Since stress can have such a detrimental impact on your oral health, make sure that you keep regular dental visits a priority. If you need a family dentist you can trust, contact us at Matthews Family Dentistry to make an appointment. We can help you recover from some of the types of damage stress caused in your mouth.