We all encounter some degree of stress in our lives – some of us, more than others. Many people are aware that stress can affect both their minds and their bodies. Mental and physical stress symptoms can range from loss of sleep, irritability and weight gain, to anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
Your teeth and oral health can also be affected by stressful situations. Studies have revealed a link between stress and oral health, and stress has been noted as a contributing factor to the following conditions:
Bruxism – Teeth grinding is a common dental problem that many people have symptoms of, without even knowing it. Teeth grinding may occur while asleep or awake, and stress is just one of the many causes for this condition that can wear down tooth enamel over time if not treated. Because many may not even be aware that they grind their teeth, it’s important pay attention to common signs and symptoms of bruxism like flattened tops of teeth, rubbed-off tooth enamel, or increased tooth sensitivity and/or tongue indentations.
Jaw Pain / Jaw Popping – Pain or clicking in your jaw can be another oral symptom of emotional or mental stress. More commonly known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD), pain in the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles that are involved in moving the jaw and neck can be caused by or made worse by stressful situations. Similar to bruxism, TMD can cause result in enamel loss due to tooth grinding.
Gum Disease – Emotional factors can play a significant role in the development of adult gum disease. Researchers have shown a direct relation between the level of emotional and mental stress in a person’s life and the severity of gum disease experienced during the same period of time. Individuals who were able to deal with stress in a positive manner, however, had less risk of developing periodontal problems.
Tooth Pain – Whether due to bruxism or TMD, the wearing down of tooth enamel from regular tooth grinding will eventually lead to tooth pain. Aside from pain, worn-down tooth enamel may also increase your risk for infection or tooth decay, since the protective surface of the tooth is gone, leaving it exposed to bacteria and germs.
How to Cope With Stress-Related Oral Problems
One of the best ways to combat the negative effects of stress is to remove the source of it. If that’s simply not possible, counseling, exercises, meditation, or massage and physical therapy may help reduce your stress and tension.
Many people going through stressful periods are so overwhelmed and distracted that they may neglect to properly care for their teeth. This lapse in daily preventive oral care can compound the oral issues caused by stress. To prevent stress from further affecting your oral health, you should brush twice a day, floss each day, and have your teeth and gums examined by your dentist on a regular basis.
Have you noticed signs of stress-induced oral problems? Don’t wait to address them. Contact us today to schedule a dental consultation at our Clear Lake office!