Stress and Oral Health

Stress is…

our body’s reaction to our environment. While heart disease, obesity, and anxiety are commonly associated with stress, our oral health is also impacted by stress. These are some of the ways in which stress affects our teeth and overall oral health:

1. Forgetting to Brush and Floss

With so much going on, you may forget to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine. It is crucial to floss at least once a day and to brush twice a day. The benefits of a proper oral hygiene routine make such tasks essential to maintaining your overall health.

2. Eating the Right Foods

Sometimes stress from work causes you to forget about eating regularly and healthily. A bag of chips can help stave off hunger for a few minutes, but the content of such foods mean you will be reaching for another one very soon. Notwithstanding the caloric benefits (or lack of), chips and other snack foods are often composed of very simple carbohydrates that your saliva easily breaks down into sugars. These sugars can quickly accumulate on your teeth and invite plaque to build up.

Nuts and celery sticks with hummus are excellent snacks to substitute for those chips.

3. Increased Susceptibility of Gum disease

Stress puts a burden on your immune system and reduces its ability to patrol your body to remove pathogens and other things that don’t belong in your body. Gum disease (periodontitis) wears away the gum and bone around your teeth. With a suppressed immune system, the effects of gum disease may become serious if not treated.  A proper oral hygiene routine like the one above, proper nutrition, and regular cleanings at the dentist’s office can significantly reduce the likelihood of periodontitis.

4. Clenching teeth (Sometimes without Realizing)

Your muscles may tighten as a result of stress, including your jaw muscles. Over time, this could lead to your teeth wearing away, sore jaw, and poor sleep.  Relaxing before bedtime or meditating can help with eliminating negative thoughts that can affect your dreams (there is an app called Headspace that helps you clear your mind). Reducing certain foods such as chocolate and alcohol before bedtime have also been shown to help. Wearing a custom made occlusal splint (night guard) not only protects your teeth at night, it also puts your jaw in a more relaxed position, reducing the strain on your muscles.

5. Not Visiting Your (Favorite) Dentist

Like eating properly and brushing, sometimes you feel like you have no time to visit the dentist. However, busy or not, visiting your dentist is important in maintaining your overall health. Once every six months can help improve your teeth’s appearance as well as reducing the likelihood of gingivitis turning into periodontitis.