Stressed Out? How Psychological Stress is Damaging Your Oral Health
When we talk about stress, our mental and physical health most often come to mind. However, have you ever considered that stress might have a negative impact on your oral health too? Yes, that’s right! Psychological stress can lead to a range of oral health issues, including gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. In this post, we will take you through the various ways in which stress affects your oral health and what you can do to prevent it.
How stress affects your oral health
When we are stressed, our body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can significantly weaken our immune system. This response inhibits your body’s ability to defend itself, even against the simplest of infections. Unfortunately, this also includes the bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.
Stress leads to Bruxism
One of the most significant effects of stress on oral health is bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding. Bruxism is a condition where the individual grinds their teeth during their sleep or unconsciously clenches their teeth. This persistent movement causes the wearing down of tooth enamel, increasing tooth sensitivity and potentially leading to TMJ disorder (temporomandibular joint disorder).
Stress Can Cause Gum Disease
Psychological stress can amplify gum disease, initiating and accelerating its progression. This has been hypothesized because of the cortisol hormone released in high-anxiety situations. Studies have found that stress lowers immune system response, allowing bacteria to multiply and grow, eventually leading to the development of gum disease.
Stress Can Increase Cavity Formation
Stress has also been linked to increasing the formation of cavities. Typically, a majority of bacteria in our mouth work alongside fluids in our saliva to help protect our teeth directly from harmful bacteria. However, during times of particular stress, saliva production slows, leading to an increase in bacterial growth and a greater chance of developing cavities.
Preventing the Impact of Stress on Oral Health
While it is hard to avoid stress in our lives, there are ways to tackle it, which can prevent and reduce the potential negative effects on our oral health. Here are some tips that you can implement to protect yourself:
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Oral hygiene practices, such as flossing and brushing your teeth twice a day, can be an adequate defensive measure against gum disease and cavities. Ensuring your mouth is clean and presentable may also help with reducing stress.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of proper sleep has been linked to stress and bruxism. It would help to establish a sleep and wake schedule; sleep is imperative to give your teeth enough durability to survive continuous grinding.
Be Mindful and Meditate
Meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises can be beneficial in reducing stress and avoiding the triggers of bruxism. These practices are known to help relax the mind and reduce cortisol and the amount of pressure put on teeth during sleep.
Can bruxism be cured?
There isn’t a cure for bruxism. Still, it can be managed by reducing stress, sleep improvement, implementing a different diet, and wearing mouthguards at night.
Can stress cause bleeding gums?
Stress lowers immunity, making it easier for bacteria in the mouth to penetrate the gum line and destroy gum tissue. If the gum tissue gets damaged or weakened, it can lead to tender or bleeding gums.
Can meditation help prevent gum disease?
Meditation and breathing exercises can help reduce stress and lead to mental clarity. Reduced stress levels, in turn, aid in improved immune function, which can lower susceptibility to bacteria that cause gum disease.
Can stress cause oral thrush?
Stress can weaken your immune system, making it easier for oral thrush to develop. Oral thrush is a fungal contamination of the mouth and may occur due to high stress levels.
Does stress cause canker sores?
Stress can cause canker sores to occur. Anxiety and high stress levels can alter hormone levels, leading to inflammation in the mouth, making it easier for canker sores to occur.
Psychological stress can have devastating effects on our overall health. However, as we have seen in this post, stress can affect our oral health too, leading to issues like bruxism, gum disease, and tooth decay. Thankfully, there are several ways to tackle stress and minimize its impact on oral health. By implementing good oral hygiene practices, taking care of our sleep, practicing mindfulness, and seeking anxiety-reducing activities, we can maintain excellent oral health and a healthy mind. Additionally, regular dental checkups and good oral practices can help ensure early identification of any oral-related complications.