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Stress and Your Teeth

Stress- Is it wrecking your teeth?

We often hear about the impacts of stress on our health but we seldom hear about what stress does to our teeth or oral health. So what about it?  Stress can cause bruxism (teeth grinding) canker sores, TMJ/TMD, dry mouth, viral infections, gum disease and poor dental hygiene.

We all come under stress at different times and for different reasons. Recent studies have shown that stress does, in fact, have a negative impact on our oral health as well as our physical and mental health.  Here’s how:

Bruxism – People that are stressed often grind their teeth during the day and at night causing excessive wear and stress on their teeth that may crack or break their teeth. If you clench your teeth, a mouth guard may be recommended by your dentist.

Canker sores – Although not really dangerous, canker sores can be painful. We really don’t know the true cause of canker sores but we do know that they increase in severity and frequency with stress.

Dry mouth – Chronic stress reduces the quantity and chemical nature of saliva that leads to increased tooth decay.  Additionally, anti-depression medications needed as a result of chronic stress can lead to dry mouth.

TMJ/TMD – Closely coupled with bruxism when stress is severe, stress can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder. Trauma and teeth grinding are common causes of TMD. Anxiety, depression and emotional disorders often lead to TMJ.

Gum Disease – Prolonged stress compromises our immune system hindering our ability to defend against gum disease and infections.

Poor Dental Hygiene – When we are stressed, we often eat more sweets and comfort foods that are detrimental to our oral health. Additionally, are often less diligent about brushing and flossing. We are preoccupied by our stress and less concerned about our health.

What to do

If you are feeling stressed, do what you can to reduce it, or at least the effects of stress.  Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep.  Don’t neglect your dental hygiene.  Try to avoid smoking and alcohol as they are highly addictive when you are stressed. If you stress is prolonged, seek professional help. If you are worried about stress affecting your dental health, talk to your dentist about it. He or she will offer suggestions to optimize yur dental care through your stressful periods.