How Stress Affects Oral Health

Most of our patients know a thing or two about stress, especially during the holiday season. Whether you’re dealing with chronic stress or simply going through a rough patch, we all encounter it from time to time. Most people associate stress with heart attacks or ulcers, but do you know the impact that stress can have on your oral health?

Stress can directly affect our mouths.

Plenty of folks grind their teeth as a physical way to deal with stress. You may do this without even realizing it! Ask someone who knows you well to tell you if you have this habit. If so, you might want to consider an occlusal guard, which we can custom make for you in-office!

Stress causes higher levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, putting our body in a “fight or flight” state.  As a result, blood pressure and blood sugar increase, and digestive and immune function decrease. When our immune system isn’t functioning as it should, our chances of periodontal disease increase. It can also slow down the healing of other oral issues or injuries we may have.

Stress may also negatively affect your oral health in indirect ways.

For starters, stress can cause folks to adopt coping strategies that are harmful for teeth (and the rest of your body).

Junk food, sweets, cigarettes, or alcohol are just a few examples. These substances can do a lot of damage in the way of gum disease and tooth decay.

Secondly, when we are stressed, we tend to put positive health behaviors on the back burner. Let’s say you’re in the hospital after a car accident; your brushing and flossing routine will probably be the last thing on your mind.

Even a minor bout of stress from a tough day can have us reaching for our cozy bed (especially in the wintertime) without pausing to brush first.

And of course, keeping up with routine dental visits may fall completely off our priority list while under stress. This can prevent us from finding the early signs of decay, causing more pain and stress down the road.

What can you do about it?

The best thing you can do to prevent the stress of oral health issues is to maintain good dental hygiene and visit us regularly for routine visits. We want what’s best for you — and that includes a lifetime of healthy smiles!

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