We all know how stress can affect our health in general, but many people may not realize that it affects our oral health as well. Here’s how stress affects your oral health, and some tips for keeping teeth and gums in top shape.
Many people grind or clench their teeth when under stress, especially at night. Often they are not even consciously aware that they are doing it. This is called Bruxism. This can damage the enamel on the teeth. Grinding over long periods of time can cause problems in certain areas of the jaw as well. There are different types of dental guards that can be used to reduce the effects of grinding. Taking a warm bath before bedtime may relax the muscles and help reduce the incidence of grinding. Even holding a warm washcloth against the jaw area may help.
Canker sores are tiny white or grayish clusters in the mouth that can be brought on by stress. Stress is also associated with cold sores or what are called fever blisters. In general, stress weakens the immune system, making the mouth more susceptible to sores caused by bacteria and viruses. There are over the counter treatments that may help mouth sores to heal faster. Avoiding spicy foods is recommended when an individual has mouth sores. It’s also important to keep the area around the sores clean and avoid touching them with the hands. Natural remedies such as Aloe Vera may also help ease the pain of mouth sores.
Stress in general can cause us to neglect our daily oral routine. Missing even a few days each month of flossing and brushing can affect our oral health over time. Diseases such as gingivitis can occur when an individual suffers from a lot of stress. Making sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet will not only help an individual deal with stress, but will help boost the immune system and keep the mouth healthy. Individuals under stress may tend to drink or smoke excessively. Eating junk food or fast food on a regular basis to cope with anxiety and stress can lead to dental problems. Even stressful habits such as nail biting can affect oral health.
Whether stress itself causes dry mouth is not clearly understood. Medications taken to relieve depression, however, can lead to the mouth being dry. There are studies that suggest being dehydrated can lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone in our bodies. Stress, dry mouth, and staying hydrated are all interrelated. Making sure to drink plenty of water on a daily basis is a way to ease dry mouth and stress. Other ways to relieve dry mouth include keeping a humidifier in the house, breathing through the nose instead of the mouth, and using an alcohol free mouthwash.
About the Author – Dr. George Sahakyan is an Orthodontist in Glendale CA and a partner at Smile Makeover of LA. A brother and sister dental practice, Smile Makeover of LA provides services in general and cosmetic dentistry, biological holistic dentistry, and orthodontics. He’s an avid contributor to finding natural ways to promote dental hygiene and maintain healthy teeth.