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How Stress Affects Your Oral Health

September 24, 2020 5 min read

It hasn’t been easy to stay in proper shape this year. Oral and overall health problems are at a record high with the stress of the COVID-19 Pandemic and many other worldwide catastrophes weighing down on so many people. And even though many have become more aware of chronic dental problems, like bad breath, due to compulsory mask wearing measures, dentists still say that they’re seeing surging cases of patients with serious dental problems.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest contributors to oral disease. According to a 2016 study, people who struggled with high levels of stress in their daily lives are more likely to suffer from poor oral health than those with lower stress levels. It’s not hard to see why considering that emotional distress makes it hard to practice healthy habits and maintain strong protection from illness. Thankfully, there are many brilliant strategies we can use to counteract the harmful effects of stress on our body. Read on to find out more about the connection between oral health and stress, and how you can keep your teeth and gums in optimum shape.

Oral Health Problems Caused by Stress

Stress can manifest in many ways—from habits like nervous pacing to problems with comfortable breathing and sleeping. How we respond to chronic stress can also affect our oral health. Unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet and excessive teeth clenching, make us more prone to serious dental issues like cavities and periodontal disease.

1. Teeth Grinding

Also known as Bruxism, teeth grinding involves clenching and grinding the teeth for minutes or even hours at a time. It most commonly occurs when we’re stressed or asleep, which is why many don’t realize they have this problem until much later.

Grinding your teeth every morning or night can lead to the destruction of tooth enamel, jaw soreness, and headaches. Other consequences of untreated bruxism also include sleep apnea, problems with the jaw muscles, and tooth sensitivity.

2. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia, is a condition wherein your mouth isn’t able to produce enough saliva needed for proper chewing, speaking, and oral health protection.

Our body relies on saliva to neutralize harmful oral bacteria and wash away dirt. When we suffer from a serious lack of saliva, we become more prone to painful cavities, infections, and gum diseases. Stress, hormones, aging, and certain medications can lead to dry mouth, so it’s important to stay hydrated and relaxed as much as possible.

3. Gum Disease

Emotional distress makes it difficult for our bodies to fight against bacterial and viral infections. Oral bacteria from plaque and dirt can invade our mouths and target our gums when we suffer from too much stress, leading to gingivitis, bad breath, and loose teeth. We can also end up with an influx of nasty oral bacteria when we soothe stress with harmful habits like smoking, drinking, and tooth clenching. It’s vital to address gum disease as soon as possible, otherwise you could end up with lost teeth or deep periodontal pockets.

4. Mouth Ulcers

Also known as canker sores, these are small and painful lesions that appear on the soft tissues in the mouth and near the gums. Although these usually go away on their own after around 2 weeks, they are painful and irritating enough to cause problems with eating, chewing, and speaking. Mouth ulcers are often caused by allergic responses, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, and stress. Although canker sores aren’t contagious, they can recur and cause quite a disturbance to your day-to-day life if the root cause isn’t addressed.

5. Tooth Decay

Tooth decay refers to the destruction of tooth enamel by harmful oral bacteria. When we don’t brush off plaque and dirt properly, acids from mouth bacteria attack our teeth and destroy protective enamel, which can then lead to painful cavities, infections, and even early tooth loss. Besides poor oral hygiene, harmful habits like smoking, drinking, tooth grinding, and consuming an unhealthy, sugar-rich diet can make us more prone to serious tooth decay.

Dealing with Stress

Stress due to work and school can’t always be avoided, which is why it’s important to find coping mechanisms that don’t pose a threat to your mental and physical health. It’s also vital to find out the root cause behind your high stress levels and mitigate it as best as you can. Here are some ways to keep your oral health in good shape while managing stress at the same time.

1. Consult Your Dentist

Bruxism and dental caries can be managed with certain treatments, such as wearing a mouth guard or having dental crowns installed. During your next check-up, ask your dentist about treatment options that you can use to achieve good oral health.

2. Wear a Mouth Guard

Speaking of mouth guards, these aren’t only worn during sporting events. Store-bought and custom-fitted mouth guards can protect your teeth from wear and tear due to unconscious tooth grinding, thus lowering your risk of painful cavities, infections, and muscle problems. Try to go for custom-made mouth guards if possible as these can match the natural shape of your teeth and gums better than store-bought varieties.

3. Avoid Unhealthy Diets

Binging on sweets to manage stress may sound like a good idea, but it can in fact lead to a serious spread of plaque and oral bacteria down the line. If you’re prone to tooth sensitivity, cavities, or gum problems, avoid food that could aggravate oral problems, such as crunchy chips and hard candy. Instead, opt for fruits, veggies, and sugar-free snacks. If you can’t cut out sugary snacks entirely, limit your daily intake to keep your teeth and gums free from swelling and pain.

 

4. Don’t Resort to Bad Habits

Besides eating too many sweets, there are many other harmful habits that can put you at risk of serious dental problems. Smoking, vaping, drinking, and chewing on hard objects all lead to eroded tooth enamel, painful cavities, and serious infections. Depending on cigarettes, vape, and alcohol also makes it much harder to deal with high stress levels in a healthy manner. Opt for completely pain-free and more effective stress management options instead, such as journaling and meditation.

5. Maintain Proper Oral Hygiene

The number one way to prevent nasty oral problems at home is to simply brush and floss properly. Practicing proper oral care habits eliminates harmful mouth bacteria and ensures proper protection from cavities, tooth abscess, gum disease, and many more serious oral problems.

Many modern dental innovations, such as electric toothbrushes and Waterpiks, make daily oral hygiene easier for everyone, including older people and those with motor problems. Electric dental scalers are another great tool to have in your medicine cabinet. These are specially designed to get rid of nasty dirt, plaque, tartar, and calculus from hard-to-clean areas, which make them the best tool for cavity prevention and optimum oral health. Try out the Meeteasy Electric Dental Calculus Remover today for easy and effective oral hygiene on the go!


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