How can stress affect your teeth? Thinking about stress is, for the lack of a better word, stressful. But, it does pay to be aware of how much stress can affect your life. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, let’s take a look at the many ways stress can affect your oral health, and what you can do to combat the problem.
Bruxism – Bruxism is the medical term used to describe the grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaws. More often than not, people who have bruxism don’t know that they have it. Not only do most people do it subconsciously, it also typically only happens at night during sleep. One way to know if you have bruxism is to ask whoever you’re sleeping with if they hear any grinding or clenching noises when you’re asleep. Also, another way to tell is if your teeth suddenly become more sensitive than before, or your jaws suddenly feel very sore when you wake up.
Treatment includes taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs and applying ice peaks or moist heat to the affected area. In worse cases, it may be necessary to visit the dentist for a custom mouth guard prescription.
Gum disease – When the body is under constant stress, it’s unable to fight off against bacteria as effectively. As a result, bacteria are able to thrive, and you’re more prone to gum disease and the faster gingivitis will progress to periodontitis. Although good oral hygiene can significantly reduce your risk of gum disease, it would be better to try and find a way to de-stress yourself.
TMD and TMJ – The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. Any complication related to it is considered a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD). Although TMD can be caused by a variety of things, stress is usually a common factor in all of them. Long-term bruxism, for example, can cause complications with the temporomandibular joint and is also often the direct result of constant stress. It’s possible that the soreness and pain or popping and clicking in your jaw are possible signs that you may have TMD.
Dry Mouth – Certain medications for stress can often cause dry mouth. Also, being constantly stressed may also make you more likely to breathe through your mouth, creating dryer conditions inside. Either way, dry mouth shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it can make chewing and swallowing very uncomfortable. Not only that, but dry mouth can increase your risk of cavities, and in turn, gum disease.
Drinking water regularly and using a specifically designed mouthwash for those with dry mouth can help provide relief. However, the best option is to address the underlying cause, which can either be stress or medication for it, or another health condition like diabetes.
Mouth Ulcers – If you brush your teeth too aggressively, or if you have long-term bruxism, you may experience what’s known as mouth ulcers or canker sores. Although research also shows that stress is the major risk factor when it comes to developing canker sores.
Visit your dentist or doctor immediately as soon as you notice these painful sores inside your mouth.
Now that you’re aware of just how much stress can affect your oral health, you can try to be more proactive from now on and prevent stress from having such a huge impact on your oral health. Be sure to also keep up with your regular dental visits every 6 months to ensure you maintain a healthy mouth. Call for an appointment with Dr. Graham Farless today at 336-282-2868 or visit the website at www.gsodentist.com.