You may be aware that chronic stress causes physical and emotional symptoms like headaches, digestive disorders, anxiety, and depression. However, did you know that stress can also affect your oral health?
According to a recent report shared by the American Psychological Association, Americans increasingly suffer from the physical symptoms of stress, affecting their overall wellbeing and increasing healthcare costs.
Stress in an inseparable aspect of the modern life; yet, constant anxiety and worry can wreak havoc on your oral health. The information shared in this article will help you recognize the relationship between stress and poor oral health, and offer valuable tips on managing stress for superior oral wellbeing.
How Stress Affects Oral Health
When subjected to stress, the ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered in the human body, releasing stress hormones and chemicals (like Cortisol and adrenaline) that have a detrimental effect on the immune system and cause a range oral health issues. Here’s how stress can adversely affect your oral wellbeing.
Stress Increases the Risk of Oral Infections and Sores
Stress has a huge negative impact on your teeth, gums, and jaw bone.
Research reveals a strong link between continued stress and gum disease or periodontal disease. Since individuals with high-stress level tend to indulge in unhealthy habits like smoking, consuming alcohol and drugs, binging on high-sugar food items, and maintaining poor oral hygiene, they are at an increased risk of developing the common symptoms of gum disease like tender, swollen, and bleeding gums, dental caries, bad breath, and loose teeth.
The constantly increased levels of Cortisol during stressful periods alter the immune system, thereby affecting the body’s natural ability to heal injuries and fight pathogens (like plaque and bacteria). Thus, a stressed individual is vulnerable to dental conditions like tooth decay, loss of bone, gum infections, mouth ulcers (canker sores), and cold sores.
In fact, constant stress can cause individuals to unintentionally bite their inner lips or cheeks, injuring the oral tissue and causing great discomfort when eating or conversing.
Stress Leads to Teeth Grinding or Bruxism
Clenching or grinding teeth is a common issue seen in individuals struggling with chronic stress and anxiety. Constant teeth grinding or bruxism contributes to a variety of dental woes, namely migraines, earache, chipped, misaligned, or flattened teeth, and sore and tight jaw muscles (referred to as temporomandibular disorder or TMD).
When stressed out, the nervous system activity heights. In order to gain relief, the individual grinds his/her teeth in sleep. Since the person isn’t aware of this excessive wear and tear, the teeth and underlying gums get severely damaged and become prone to inflammation and infection.
Stress Causes Dry Mouth
Chronic stress is proven to adversely affect the salivary flow rate, thereby affecting one’s quality of life. Have you noticed how badly you feel the urge to have a glass of water right before a stressful presentation at work? Stress causes hormonal imbalance in the body, thereby impacting the production of saliva in your mouth.
Apart from containing essential digestive enzymes, saliva is required to wash away the dead cells that accumulate on the tongue and the food particles between the teeth and gums. Moreover, saliva contains natural chemicals that neutralize the acid produced by plaque and bacteria.
The lack of saliva creates an acidic environment in the mouth and leads to the decomposition of the dead cells, damaging the teeth and causing foul breath.
3 Strategies to Manage Stress for Improved Oral Health
If you are suffering from any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is wise to visit your dentist for expert dental care advice. In addition, use the tips shared below to manage stress and overcome the aforesaid dental conditions.
Manage Your Time Effectively
When you have a lot on your plate, even 24 hours a day may seem meager. Managing your time effectively can help you prioritize and organize your tasks, allowing you to live a less stressful and more enjoyable life.
Several mobile applications allow individuals to set reminders, organize their day, and accomplish important tasks with ease. Use technology to manage your day efficiently and reduce work-related anxiety.
Setting healthy limits and communicating them to others show that you respect your abilities and care for your wellbeing. Learn to say ‘no’ to requests that can create unnecessary anxiety in your life.
Make Self-Care a Priority
The first thing that is impacted under stress is your ability to take care of your body. Though it may make you feel selfish, it is important to prioritize your health over other pressing matters.
Avoid depending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, and indulging in other compulsive behaviors to escape stress. Instead, develop healthy habits like exercising and meditating regularly, eating well-balanced meals, avoiding high-sugar food items, and getting enough sleep.
Take time out from your hectic schedule and develop hobbies that help you relax and live a fulfilling life.
Ensure oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Remember to floss regularly to get rid of the stubborn plaque and calculus between the teeth.
Seek Professional Support
If you are overwhelmed with stress, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help.
Your dentist knows how stress affects your oral health and can offer you valuable advice on enhancing your oral routine during stressful periods. Therefore, it is advisable to see your dentist or oral hygienist regularly.
Furthermore, your dentist can refer you to a psychologist or a healthcare professional trained in stress management, enabling you to cope with pressure and live a healthy life.
Summing It Up
A certain amount of stress is healthy as it drives us to achieve our life goals. However, chronic stress can contribute to poor oral health and ruin your overall wellbeing systemically in combination with other chronic diseases. Being aware of how stress can affect your oral health can help you recognize the early warning signs, enabling you to take effective measures to reduce the ensuing painful oral symptoms.
Use the smart tips shared in this article to manage stress and avert the risk of developing dental disorders.