April is home to a plethora of national campaign awareness efforts, including Oral Cancer Awareness Month and National Facial Protection Month. In this post, we’re going to be focusing on April also being home to Stress Awareness Month. You may not always consider its impact when it comes to your mouth, but stress can have a significant impact on oral health.
We may all have different ways of reacting to and coping with stress, which is totally natural. The common factor is that stress can weaken our immune systems and trigger our brains to cope in unhealthy ways. This might mean seeking out comfort foods or forming negative habits like smoking or consuming alcohol on a regular basis. These habits can damage and put your oral health at risk.
Here are 4 examples of signs of stress on your oral health:
- Poor Oral Hygiene Routine: When we are stressed, self-care typically takes a backseat. Instead, we rely on things that provide us comfort and this may include consuming unhealthy foods that are high in carbs, sugar or caffeine. This type of imbalanced diet directly correlates with what your mouth experiences. In addition to consuming damaging foods, you may opt to drop any semblance of an oral hygiene routine. You may find yourself brushing only once per day, if at all, or skipping flossing altogether. Inattention to your oral hygiene routine can lead to plaque buildup, tooth decay, cavities and potentially even tooth loss.
- Dry Mouth: What is the actual function of saliva? Well, it does a number of things like help to remove food particles from our teeth, keep our teeth moist, remineralize the tooth enamel, and fight bacteria. When we’re stressed, our saliva production decreases which can cause plaque to build up and lead to more intense dental issues. Excessive alcohol and tobacco use can also cause dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Teeth Grinding: Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is an action that is synonymous with stress and anxiety. This often occurs at night and, because of this, many people who grind their teeth are actually unaware of the fact that they’re performing this detrimental action. It can cause wear and tear on your teeth to the point that you may chip or loosen your teeth, experience tooth sensitivity, or notice pain in your temples.
- Clenched Jaw: When you experience constant muscle tension in your jaw from chronic stress, it can cause temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). TMJ causes pain in your jaw and around your ears, and may lead to difficulty opening your mouth or chewing your food.
When we can detect oral health issues early enough, we can try to help save gums, teeth and jaws from the long-term effects of stress. Even if you’re enduring high levels of stress, it’s still important to keep up with your bi-annual dental visits so that we can help to monitor and manage any impacts stress is having on your oral health.
If you can remove the source of stress from your life, that’s the best way to fend off the negative effects of it. However, if that’s not entirely possible, then turning to healthy habits like yoga, meditation, journaling or exercising can help to reduce tension.
Of course, we are always here and can recommend specific treatment based on what we see during an oral health evaluation. Please contact us with any questions you may have regarding the impacts of stress on your oral health!