Most people are familiar with some of the ways that undue amounts of stress can affect your health. Not only can stress make it difficult to sleep, thus causing a host of other problems, but it can also lead to more serious problems such as ulcers or headaches, and can even play a role in the development of some cancers, as researchers are beginning to discover.
In addition to these problems, there are also myriad ways in which stress can affect your oral health. These include ailments that affect your mouth as a whole, such as mouth sores, which include canker sores and cold sores. Canker sores are small ulcers that appear inside the mouth, and while medical experts aren’t sure what may be the cause of canker sores, stress is one of the likely culprits. While not contagious, they can be highly irritating. Cold sores, however, are contagious, and appear as blisters that often show up on or around the lips. They have any number of different causes, such as fever or a sunburn, but stress can trigger an outbreak as well.
A dental problem that can be caused or exacerbated by stress is that of teeth grinding. Stress can make a person clench or grind his or her teeth, or may make an existing habit worse. This can lead to more serious problems such as problems with the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) as well as other issues as a result of having worn-down teeth.
Stress can also have an affect on the overall health of your teeth and gums. How so? Studies have shown that stress can make people more susceptible to bad habits that can have a negative impact on oral health, such as drinking more alcohol and smoking, both of which are risk factors for periodontal disease. Furthermore, the Journal of Periodontology notes that stress can lead people to neglect their oral hygiene, specifically routines such as brushing and flossing. And clearly, regular brushing and flossing are the cornerstones of an oral hygiene regimen that is most likely to prevent tooth decay and disease.
Finally, some medications that one might take to deal with stress or anxiety disorder can decrease the mouth’s ability to produce saliva, which can in turn increase the risk of developing tooth decay and other periodontal diseases. While these medications may continue to be appropriate, those who are taking them should consult with their dentist as well, to determine what steps can be taken to mitigate these potentially harmful side effects.
Talk to your dentist about ways to help protect your teeth from the effects of stress.