Most of our patients know a thing or two about stress. Whether you’re dealing with
chronic stress, or a brief stressful life circumstance, we all encounter it from time to
time. Most people associate stress with heart attacks or ulcers, but do you know how
stress can affect your oral health?
Stress may negatively affect your oral health in indirect ways.
For starters, stress can cause folks to reach for coping strategies that aren’t so good for
your teeth (or the rest of your body).
Junk food, sweets, cigarettes, or alcohol are just a few examples. When these
substances interact with your teeth, they can do a lot of damage in the way of gum
disease and tooth decay.
Secondly, when we are stressed, we tend to stop making positive health behaviors a
priority. Let’s say you’re in the hospital after a car accident; your brushing and
flossing routine will not be forefront on your mind.
Even a minor bout of stress from a tough day can have us reaching for our cozy bed
and some relieve instead of taking the time 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 and can cause more pain and stress later on.
How does stress affect our mouths directly?
Well, lots of folks grind their teeth as a physical way to deal with stress. You may be
doing it without even realizing it! Ask a partner or someone who knows you well to
tell you if you have this habit.
Also, when we are stressed we have higher levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol
and adrenaline, that put our body in a “flight or fight” state. This causes our blood
pressure and blood sugar to increase, and our digestive and immune function to
decrease. When our immune system isn’t functioning as it should, this can make
periodontal disease more likely. It can also slow down the healing of other oral issues
or injuries we may have.
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 healthy mouth for a lifetime!