We all encounter stress in our lives, but if we don’t have the strategies to cope with it effectively, it can become debilitating. Stress can not only affect you in a negative way psychologically, but also in a physical sense. In fact, stress also negatively affects your oral health. Researchers have discovered a strong link between depression and anxiety with dental problems.
How does stress affect your mouth?
- Bruxism (tooth grinding): stress commonly triggers the grinding, clenching or gnashing of teeth during the night. It can lead to jaw disorders, headaches, chipped or damaged teeth and other dental problems.
- Dry mouth: anxiety and stress often result in a dry mouth, which has a negative impact on oral health. Saliva helps to wash away residual food particles and bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
- Canker sores: these are small spots with a white or greyish base colouring that have red borders. They appear inside the mouth sometimes in pairs or in larger numbers. While researchers are not sure exactly what causes them, they have been known to be linked to stress. Stay away from foods and drinks with a high acid content such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and chilli. Most canker sores disappear within ten days.
- Cold sores: the Herpes virus causes these and breakouts are common when you are under stress. Over-the-counter medications can help heal unattractive cold sores.
- Gum disease and infections: it’s widely known that stress lowers the immune system, putting the body at risk of developing infections. The likelihood of developing gum disease or gum infections is increased when under stress.
- Burning Mouth Syndrome: this syndrome is characterised by an unpleasant burning sensation on the tongue, lips, gums or palate. It can be caused by psychological factors brought on by stress.
- Lichen Planus: this condition is characterised by ulcers, sores and white lines appearing in the mouth. It is caused by a viral infection that the body is more susceptible to when stressed.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder: this painful disorder affects the jaw and is characterised by chronic jaw pain, headaches and stiff movement of the jaw. Stress contributes to the onset of this disorder in a number of ways. Tooth grinding is a common cause as is anxiety and depression.
What should you do?
If you experience any of the conditions that are related to stress above, book an appointment with your dentist. Together you will discuss strategies to reduce or cope with the stress in your life as well as treatment options for the oral health condition you are experiencing.