Young woman at the dentistWith April being widely recognized as Stress Awareness Month, it may be wise to take this opportunity to talk about stress and its effect on your oral health.

While the link is not obvious at first, excessive stress can cause more than just headaches and stomachaches. Your teeth, gums and oral health, in general, could suffer a lot for it.

For example, excessive stress can affect your oral health in ways such as:

  • Mouth ulcers, cold sores and mouth sores
  • Bruxism, or unconscious grinding and clenching of teeth
  • Bad breath, poor oral hygiene and a tendency to follow unhealthy eating habits or routines
  • Gum disease, and possible worsening if one is already suffering from periodontal disease

Mouth Sores 

  • Mouth ulcers are small ulcers with a gray or white appearance, with a hint of red. They often appear in the mouth, sometimes in pairs and sometimes, too numerous to count. There’s not exactly a known cause for them just yet, but experts believe that stress, as well as fatigue and allergies, can increase one’s risk for mouth ulcers. Also, despite their appearance, mouth ulcers are not contagious.

 

Mouth ulcers tend to disappear on their own after a week or ten days. For relief, one can use topical anesthetics such as gels and apply them directly to the affected spots. It is also advisable to avoid eating anything spicy, hot, or acidic, to help reduce irritation.

 

  • Cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus and unlike mouth ulcers, are contagious. They start as a tingling situation and eventually become blisters that are full of “fluid” that may burst.

 

Outbreaks can be a result of a rise in temperature, skin abrasion, sunburn, and emotional outbursts. Also, since they’re contagious, it is important to avoid kissing or having oral sex with someone who has cold sores. Though, children suffering from cold sores can still go to school or nursery.

 

Cold sores will also heal on their own after a week, although treatments such as anti-viral creams are available. If needed, you can ask your dentist for a prescription for antiviral drugs if necessary.

Teeth Grinding and Clenching

Excessive stress and anxiety can make you clench and grind your teeth, often unconsciously and mostly at night when you’re asleep. This is a condition that’s known as bruxism.

If you already know that you clench and grind your teeth, exposing yourself to stress can only make it worse. If left unchecked, this can lead to certain problems with the jaw joints.

As for treatment, dentists will usually recommend the wearing of a night guard while sleeping to help minimize the damage done by the constant clenching and grinding of the teeth.

Poor Oral Hygiene and Eating Habits

Stress may also affect your mood and cause you to skip your usual oral hygiene and eating habits.

Not taking care of yourself and your mouth can lead to your teeth, gums and overall oral health to suffer. If you’re not suffering from gum disease, excessive stress may lead you to it and it may also only make it worse for those who’re already suffering from gum disease.

Of course, reminding yourself just how important good oral hygiene and eating habits can help. However, you can help keep your stress levels down by exercising regularly and limiting your exposure to stressful situations.

Gum Disease

Studies have shown that those who experience higher levels of stress and anxiety regularly are at a higher risk for developing dental plaque. In the long term, elevated stress levels can also increase one’s risk for gingivitis and bleeding gums, the former of which may progress to periodontitis.

Stress can also lead to depression and studies have shown that depressed patients are twice as less likely to respond to treatment than those who are not depressed.

Of course, you can’t just make stress disappear. It just does not work that way. However, you can learn how to cope with to help reduce your risk for certain oral complications.

Stress is dangerous for your health and it can not only affect your oral health, but your overall health as well. However, you can minimize its effects on your teeth and gums by seeing your dentist regularly and of course, by following a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing at least once.

If stress has affected your oral health, contact Dr. Graham Farless, DSS at 336-282-2868 to schedule an appointment today. Or visit www.gsodentist.com for additional information regarding oral health.