The World Health Organization considers stress to be the health epidemic of the 21st century. The reasons for stress abound. Other than workplace stress, finances, family issues, and health ailments are the most common reasons why people feel stressed.

Statistics reveal that stress costs the U.S. economy $300 billion each year. The American Institute of Stress shares that 77 percent of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, tension headaches, teeth grinding, lack of appetite, and muscle pain.

In fact, researchers say that chronic stress contributes to a progressive and long-term development of oral diseases like tooth and gum infections, chipped teeth, and mouth ulcers. (Refer to the image below).

Conceptual framework

First, to cope with stress, an individual may resort to unhealthy habits like drug abuse, tobacco chewing, smoking, and poor diet, which can adversely affect oral health. Secondly, stress triggers (stressors) cause improper functioning of the circulatory, respiratory, and the immune system, increasing the risk of oral infections.

The information shared in this post will help you understand how chronic stress affects oral health. You will also find effective tips on combating stress in your daily life, thereby reducing the risk of common oral health issues.

How Stress Affects Oral Health

1) Stress Can Wreck Your Gums

Several scientific studies confirm the link between stress and poor gum health. Stress affects the immune system and increases the levels of Cortisol (a stress hormone) in the saliva, thereby allowing plaque bacteria and other microorganisms to build up along the gum line. Thus, stress increases the risk of oral infections and inflamed and bleeding gums.

2) Stress Makes Your Teeth Grind

Did you know, excessive stress can cause you to clench your teeth and grind them back and forth even when you are asleep?

Teeth grinding (a condition called bruxism) and jaw clenching is often a result of heightened stress. On several occasions, the person grinding his/her teeth isn’t aware of this phenomenon, thereby causing intense trauma to facial muscles, headaches, pain and stiffness in the jaw (TMJ Disorder), broken or chipped teeth, tooth sensitivity, bleeding gums, and canker sores.

3) Stress Triggers Oral Sores and Ulcers

Oral sores (commonly referred to as canker sores or mouth ulcers) are small painful lesions that usually appear on the inner part of lips, at the base of the gums, the tongue, or in the mouth.

Though stress is not the only cause of these sores, it can trigger an outbreak, causing pain and discomfort when eating and talking. Researchers have found a definite correlation between psychological stress and the development of canker sores. In fact, stress often causes individuals to involuntarily bite their inner cheek or lips, damaging the mouth tissue and causing mouth sores and ulcers.

4) Stress Causes Your Mouth to Dry

Have you noticed how your mouth goes dry when you feel nervous? That’s absolutely normal! However, in the case of chronic stress, the amount of saliva flowing into the mouth is reduced, causing a disorder called dry mouth syndrome. Stress-induced dry mouth is painful, causes foul breath, and triggers a constant burning sensation in the mouth.

5) Stress Forces You to Neglect Your Oral Health

When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you tend to neglect is self-care through healthy practices like maintaining oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and consuming a healthy diet. Research has also shown that excessive stress can cause you to opt for unhealthy food items that can wreak havoc on your oral wellbeing.

If you suffer from any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to visit your local dental services team to get expert oral health advice.

Stress is a silent killer that not only increases the risk of heart diseases, asthma, and diabetes but also ruins your oral health. Though stress is an inseparable part of life, a few lifestyle changes can help you manage it before you face serious oral health issues.

Use the tips shared below to manage stress and take good care of your teeth and gums.

Effective Tips to Relieve Stress and Improve Your Oral Health

1) Manage Time Effectively

Procrastination and poor time management often cause stress, reducing your productivity and taking a toll on your fitness (especially oral health).

Know your goals and take time to prioritize your tasks in a logical manner. Plan your day the first thing in the morning and eliminate self-induced interruptions (social media and non-urgent phone calls) that are the most insidious time wasters.

Watching where you spend your time and organizing your day can help you overcome stress and prevent stress-induced oral health issues.

2) Include Meditation in Your Routine

If your stress levels are consistently high, practicing meditation can help calm you down, reducing the risk of oral health issues like teeth grinding, gum infections, and mouth sores. Countless studies show that meditation reduces stress by lowering the levels of Cortisol and encourages you to be mindful of your food choices, thereby improving your oral health.

3) Develop Healthy Habits

Developing healthy habits like regular dental care, avoiding sugary food, and exercising can reduce the level of stress hormone in your body and improve your oral health.

Furthermore, it is wise to avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs as they affect your immune system, increasing the risk of gum disorders.

Talk to your family dental care practitioner for more tips on managing stress and avoiding dental disorders.

4) Go for Routine Dental Cleaning

Regular visits to your family dentist can help in the early diagnosis and management of stress-related oral disorders.

A local dentist, periodontist, or a cosmetic dentist can offer you the best advice on general and preventive dental care as per your needs. For instance, if you reside in Miami, FL, and need dental advice pertaining to chipped teeth, you can look for practitioners who specialize in cosmetic dentistry in Miami, who can help improve your dental health.

Most dental clinics conduct a comprehensive examination to check whether your teeth and gums are showing signs of stress-related wear and tear. Thus, to get on to the road to better oral wellbeing and find healthy ways to combat stress, contact a dental expert.

Stress affects oral health in more ways than one. Use the information shared in this post to recognize the symptoms of stress-induced oral disorders and safeguard your teeth and gums during the stressful episodes in your life.

(Image credit: 1 & 2)