Stress harms the entire body. So that also means stress can affect your mouth. In this article, learn to spot the signs that stress might be playing havoc with your oral health and the best way to deal with it.
At the end of the pandemic, dentists noticed they had to restore more cracked teeth than usual. Coined the ‘Cracked Tooth Epidemic’ or ‘Pandemic Bruxism’, there was a well-established link between elevated stress levels and tooth damage during this time.
Studies have since uncovered stress’s short-term and long-term effects on the mouth. This includes Bruxism, tooth fractures, decay and gum disease.
That’s why it’s important to have regular dental check-ups to spot these early signs. If anxiety is believed to be damaging your teeth, dentists can advise you on the best ways to cope with it. Dentists can also provide you with nightguards to reduce fractures from tooth grinding.
Paying close attention to the visible signs that stress may be damaging your oral health (and the rest of your body) is the first step in managing it. Here’s what to look out for.
Bruxism is when you unconsciously grind your teeth or clench your jaw. Bruxism can happen at any time of the day, but more commonly, it occurs at night when you’re asleep. Most people don’t even realise they have it unless a dentist or someone close to them points it out.
High anxiety and stress levels can make you grind your teeth and clench your jaw.
Teeth adversely affected by Bruxism may appear worn down, chipped or fractured. Your teeth may also be overly-sensitive.
Long-term Bruxism abrades the tooth enamel through friction. Doing so can leave you more vulnerable to cavities and decay.
How we can help:
There are a few ways a dentist can help with Bruxism. They can design a bespoke nightguard for you to wear while you sleep. They can also advise counselling or relaxation therapy in severe cases.
Top tip: Meditating before you go to sleep can make you more relaxed. In turn, you may be less likely to grind and clench your teeth.
Click here to learn more about Bruxism.
#2 Gum Disease
Stress is powerful. So powerful that it even has the strength to deplete your immune system.
A depletion in your immune system can leave you vulnerable to sickness. It can also cause chronically inflamed gums. If your gums are inflamed due to harmful bacteria, a low immune system can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infection. This can also cause gum disease (periodontal disease).
When stressed, we also tend to neglect our bodies. You may start smoking, drinking or adopting a poor diet. This can increase your chances of tooth decay. At times, you may also stop brushing your teeth. All these factors combined can increase your chances of gum disease.
How we can help:
Gum disease progresses painlessly. Therefore, you may not even know you have it.
Don’t be shy to see us. It’s important that you attend regular check-ups, so we can refer you to a hygienist if needed. A hygienist can deep clean your teeth and monitor gum disease progression. Gum disease is reversible with proper professional treatment and home maintenance.
Click here to learn more about Gum Disease.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. It’s, therefore, essential for chewing, talking and yawning.
TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction) is a group of conditions affecting the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
Stress can cause and aggravate TMD. Especially if it manifests from tooth grinding or jaw clenching (Bruxism).
If you are suffering from TMD, you may experience jaw pain, painful chewing, pain around your ear and face, and jaw locking. TMD sufferers also report hearing a popping or clicking noise each time they widen their jaw.
How we can help:
At Shields, our dentists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating TMD.
Medical attention may not always be necessary. Sometimes, the pain and discomfort can go away on their own.
You should seek help if you have trouble opening and closing your mouth or if the pain is severe and persistent. Pain medication can be prescribed to help with the pain and swelling.
If you’re experiencing Bruxism, anti-anxiety medication can also be prescribed to stop you from clenching your jaw. For sleep Bruxism, a bespoke nightguard can be made to reduce friction from impacting your teeth.
Click here to learn more about TMD.
#4 Dry Mouth
Saliva plays a vital role in keeping our mouths happy and healthy. But, when anxious or stressed, our mouths tend to dry out.
This could be due to breathing more through our mouths, especially when hyperventilating. When stressed, our bodies also enter fight-or-flight mode, affecting saliva flow.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, this often means that bad bacteria in the mouth isn’t washed away. This harmful bacteria will cling to your teeth and can cause enamel erosion.
Top tip: some anti-anxiety medications can cause dry mouth. In these cases, drinking lots of water is important to keep the mouth hydrated.
How we can help:
If you regularly experience dry mouth, drink lots of water to wash away the bad bacteria. It’s also recommended to book a check-up appointment with a dentist, so they can check for tooth decay.
Dentists can give preventative advice on how to best care for your mouth and avoid tooth decay.
#5 Canker Sores
Canker sores, or mouth ulcers, are small, shallow ulcers in the mouth. These sores can grow in pairs or entire clusters, which makes eating or drinking painful.
We can all agree that canker sores are a nuisance. But why we develop them is still very much unknown. We only know that there’s a clear correlation between these sores and stress, and this is possibly down to the lower immune system.
Luckily, most canker sores will go away on their own after 10 days. If they persist, or you get canker sores often, this can signal other underlying health conditions, including:
- An impaired immune system
- Dietary problems
- Gastrointestinal Tract diseases like Crohn’s or Coeliac Disease
In these cases, it’s best to seek a medical opinion from your doctor.
Could Stress Be Damaging Your Smile? Consult a Dentist at Shields Dental & Orthodontic Clinic Limerick.
Shields Dental & Orthodontic Clinic is open seven days a week to provide you with the dental care you deserve.
Give our friendly reception team a call on 061 539034 or click here to fill out an online enquiry form.