Stress and Your Oral Health

Stress affects every aspect of our health, often in ways we may not notice at first. The relationship between stress and your oral health is a complex one, with both short and long term effects which can become quite serious if untreated.  It’s important to understand the relationship between stress and your oral health, which oral health problems are caused by stress, and what you can do to counteract the effects of stress on your teeth and gums.

Symptoms of Stress

There are a number of oral health issues which may be caused by stress. While your dentist can answer specific questions about your unique situation, some of the more common dental problems resulting from stress may include the following:

  • Jaw problems, or issues of the jaw joint or chewing muscles. These can cause pain in the ear, face, or neck.
  • Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism can happen during the day when you’re stressed or concentrating. It’s most common at night while sleeping, however. 
  • Poor oral hygiene, generally caused by a lack of good brushing and flossing combined with poor eating habits. A stressful and busy schedule can lead you to forget to brush and floss regularly, causing potentially serious oral health problems.
  • Cold sores, a common condition caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1. Cold sores are often triggered by dental treatment, stress, or sunlight.
  • Oral infections or sores, which often manifest as ulcers, white lines, or white or red spots. These have many causes but can be brought on by stress.
  • Decreased immune response, caused by the toll stress takes on the body. This can in turn cause gingivitis or other forms of periodontal disease.

While these are all relatively common oral health issues, they have a special relationship with stress and the impact stress has on your mind and body. Oral health is an important aspect of self-care, so during stressful times it’s important to remember to care for your teeth and gums. We know it can be difficult, but it’s important for you and your overall health.

Treating Symptoms of Stress

While you should consult your dentist about any persistent or painful oral health problems, there are some things you can do on your own to help treat stress-related oral health issues. First and foremost, the most important thing you can do is maintain a good brushing and flossing routine every day. Keeping your teeth and gums clean is vital to their health and yours, and while it can be difficult to do so during stressful times regular brushing and flossing is a must. Second, maintaining a healthy diet is vital to all aspects of your health including your oral health. Your dietary needs may vary, but avoiding sugary foods and drinks, limiting starches, and eating well-balanced meals shapes all aspects of your health including your dental health. Some issues may require specific treatments–teeth grinding might best be treated by wearing a protective mouthguard at night, for instance. Cold sores may require medical treatment or the avoidance of spicy foods or other triggers. Again, your dentist can tell you which approaches might be best for you.

Stress is part of life, albeit worse at some times than others. Whatever your circumstances, please try to make some time for your oral health every day. Your smile should last a lifetime, but it needs daily care to do so.