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How Stress Impacts Oral Health

In today’s busy and dynamic world, stress is a common concern for most people. Inevitably, life can bring unexpected and sometimes complicated moments and situations that are stressful in nature.
Our ability to cope with that stress may become challenging and over time can start to impact our health. Our bodies were made to tolerate short bursts of stress, which ultimately facilitate our ability to get through situations when necessary. However, continued elevated levels of stress over a long period of time are detrimental.
Research shows how stress can negatively impact our oral health and their various manifestations:
  • Mouth sores – canker sores or cold sores are often times caused by emotional stress. These can cause pain and discomfort for about 10-14 days as healing takes place. Please speak to your dentist as he/she can provide medication or rinses to help with discomfort and healing as well as dietary precautions that will expedite healing and prevention.
  • Teeth grinding and/or clenching of teeth – stress can cause worrying and repetitive thoughts, which can cause grinding during sleep. If you find yourself stressed at bedtime or having headaches upon waking, you may be grinding your teeth at night without being aware of it. Stress can also contribute to unknowingly clenching during a thought or action. Both of these conditions put a lot of stress on the teeth and surrounding support structures.
  • Poor oral hygiene – Stressful or busy times in our lives may affect our schedule in a manner that does not allow enough time to brush or floss regularly. This can lead to increased risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Poor diet/nutrition – having a poor diet as a result of stress can cause a lack in important vitamins and essential nutrients needed to maintain health. A poor unbalanced diet can also lead to an increase in tooth decay.
  • Poor habits – Smoking as a means of coping may increase during stressful times that may also negatively impact our immunity and increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Gum disease – stress can affect your immunity, decreasing its ability to fight harmful bacteria that can cause damage to your gums and cause gum disease.
  • Missing regular dental appointments – Visiting your dentist regularly (every six months), not only provides preventative care but also facilitates diagnosing and managing dental issues that may become worst over time.
  • Dry mouth – stress contributes to dry mouth. Our saliva is what keeps our mouth balanced, washes away food particles, keeps our breath fresh and is important in digestion. Dry mouth can also be caused by medications that may be prescribed for stress related symptoms and or depression.

How can you manage stress?

  • Find relaxing techniques or a self-care plan to help manage difficult times.
  • Keep up with oral hygiene home care.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
If you have any concerns about how stress can be affecting your oral health, please contact us and we would be happy to answer any additional questions.

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