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How Stress Can Affect Oral Health

Beth Snyder, DMD in Doylestown

How Stress Can Affect Oral Health

added on: April 4, 2023

Modern-day life has many of us feeling more stressed than ever. While certain levels of stress can benefit us in the short run, too much stress over too much time can negatively impact health and overall well-being. And, as your dentist in Doylestown knows, our oral health isn’t immune to the negative side effects of stress. Here are some ways stress can affect oral health. 

Gum Disease

The most common cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene. However, there are other things that can increase the risk of developing it, including stress. In fact, research shows that there may be a link between prolonged exposure to high levels of stress and a greater risk for gum disease. The body’s reaction to stress can include a delayed response from the immune system. When the immune system is worn down by stress, it can’t effectively fight off the harmful bacteria in your mouth, allowing it to flourish. Bad bacteria in the mouth that isn’t fought off by the immune system or rinsed away by brushing and flossing can cause an infection of the gums, known as gingivitis. In the early stage, gingivitis can be treated. However, if it’s not treated early by your dentist in Doylestown, gingivitis can progress into gum disease, which is a very serious oral health condition that can affect the rest of the body, such as increasing the risk of heart disease and tooth loss.

Tooth Grinding

Stress can cause our bodies to do weird things such as grinding or clenching our teeth. This often occurs during sleep, when we may not even know it’s happening. However, teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is often related to increased levels of stress. When we’re feeling stressed, we’re more likely to grind our teeth together, wearing down tooth enamel, placing unnatural stress on the jaw joint, or causing tooth damage. If you wake up with a sore jaw, it may be a sign that you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep. 

Mouth Sores

Whether you call them canker sores or cold sores (which are different, by the way – cold sores are contagious while canker sores are not), mouth sores in general are painful, and you’d do anything to make them disappear quickly. While there is no absolute explanation for the cause of canker sores, research has shown that many of them have some correlation with high levels of stress and a depleted immune system. The good news is that canker sores often disappear and heal on their own. However, if one doesn’t go away or you get them often, see your dentist in Doylestown.

How to Protect Your Teeth

Stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t need to affect your oral or overall health. Some ways to reduce your stress include: 

  • Eat Well. Fueling your body with the nutrient-dense food it needs to function properly can help fight off stress. Eat a good balance of fresh fruits, ripe vegetables, and delicious whole grains.
  • Sleep. Adults should get anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep every single night. But stress can put a dent in that really quickly, and it’s normal. Try to plan your day so you allow enough time for adequate sleep.
  • Exercise Regularly. Exercise is proven to help us release more happy hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone. Those surges can help lower stress.

Everyone is entitled to feel stress – it’s inevitable. But it’s important to recognize when stress levels are too high and to find what works for you to lower your stress. After all, lower stress often means a healthier body and a healthier mouth.