Five ways that stress affects your oral health – and what you can do about it

Most people are feeling more stressed than usual right now. Discover five ways that stress may be affecting your oral health – and how you can help.

Stress occurs when we overwork ourselves, and don’t allow our minds or bodies sufficient rest, this in turn may cause us to become burnout or anxious and can affect us physically and mentally.

We know stress affects many areas of our health but did you know it can have a considerable effect on our oral health? With today’s 24-7 work ethic mixed with the current health crisis, this could be putting your oral health in danger. 

Trethowans
Trethowans

To help you, Dr Sunny Sihra, owner of SimplyTeeth explains exactly what stress is doing to our dental health. 

1) Your oral hygiene is compromised

When we are stressed or burnt out, it is usually because we are feeling anxious or stressed in our daily lives, whether that’s from work or family life.

Because your mind is focussed on so many other things you may find that your personal hygiene goes out the window, this includes your oral hygiene.

Many people who are busy may find it hard to find time to dedicate to their oral health twice a day anyway, so adding stress and being overworked into the mix will most likely mean you are skipping brushing, flossing or using mouthwash all together.

This can lead to many problems for your teeth down the line such as cavities, ulcers and gum problems. If you end up skipping brushing your teeth altogether the plaque will build up and this will increase your chances of needing emergency dental work.

What you can do

Make sure you maintain your oral hygiene routine. Stick to your usual brushing and flossing schedule.

2) You could develop gum disease

Stress is known to affect your immune system which we need to be healthy to fight against bad bacteria that can cause periodontal disease, making a person more likely to develop an oral infection or gum disease.

Many studies have shown that those at a greater risk of developing gum disease are people with many issues both emotional and mental, as well as those with financial issues.

So if your job is causing you severe stress and anxiety, or you are worried about lack of work and income, you are more likely to develop long term issues with your gums. 

What you can do

Find ways to try to manage your stress. If you need help, you can read six powerful ways to cope with stress here.

3) You’ll succumb to Bruxism 

Stress can often cause you to grind or clench your teeth a lot more than usual, this is known as a condition called Bruxism.

It essentially describes a person who clench’s their teeth for periods of time as well as grinding them at night, this can also be known as sleep bruxism. Stress can cause us to feel in a constant state of worry, which can affect your body even when its asleep and will cause you to sleep grind, and could even wake up the person next to you.

Some of the symptoms of Bruxism are tooth sensitivity, a lack of enamel on the tooth, soreness in the jaw and tight jaw muscles or loose/chipped teeth. Habits such as alcohol consumption, smoking and too much caffeine as well as of course stress may increase your chances of developing Bruxism.

What you can do

Worry you’re grinding your teeth? Here are four ways you can stop.

4) You’ll eat a poor diet 

Many people suffering with stress will most likely be undernourished and will have a pretty terrible diet.

This can be because they have so much on their mind they are more likely to eat quick and easy meals or snacks. Rather than cooking a healthy meal from scratch which will give them the proper vitamins and nutrients they need to remain healthy.

A bad diet can eventually lead to problems with your teeth, especially if you are eating sugary snacks more often, sugary drinks, cans of pop or a higher alcohol consumption than usual. This partnered with a lack of oral hygiene will most likely bring on teeth troubles such as cavities and gum disease. 

What you can do

Make sure you get the daily nutrients and vitamins you need. You can find out what they are and how to include them in your diet here.

5) You’ll get a dry mouth and sore lips

If you are stressed you may find that you have a dryer mouth than usual, especially around times that you may feel more anxious or stressed – for example if you are about to do a presentation or lead a team meeting at work.

Many people with high powered jobs who feel stressed a lot of the time will suffer with this oral condition. Dry mouth causes a lack of saliva in your mouth and saliva is super important as it has many oral benefits such as washing away any food particles left in your teeth and gums.

Not only this, your lips may also suffer from stress as if you bite or chew them out of stress, leading them to become dry, cracked or thin.

Dry or cracked lips may also be down to a lack of self-care, as many people with work troubles won’t bother applying lip balm, salve or even a moisturiser. Not drinking enough water throughout the day may also cause your lips to feel more dry as this prevents them from remaining hydrated, soft, supple and healthy.

What you can do

Make sure you manage your stress as best you can, and drink plenty of water.

This article was contributed by Dr Sunny Sihra at SimplyTeeth.

Photo by Marek Studzinsk