How Stress Affects Your Mouth

The last 18 months have been a roller coaster ride for all of us. Lockdowns, border closures and general uncertainty has certainly seen an increase in stress across the population. We have seen an increase in dental and jaw stress related issues in our patients here at Jamestown Dental too.

 

Many of our patients presenting with these issues were unaware of the relationship stress can have on their teeth and jaws.

 

Jaw pain and tooth grinding

 

Many people can clench their jaws or grind their teeth when they are stressed. Some people may not be aware they are doing this and some people even do this in their sleep.

 

Signs of clenching and grinding may include sore jaw muscles, jaw joint pain, headaches, ear aches and wearing down their teeth.

 

We can help prevent the wearing down of your teeth with a dental nightguard (an acrylic splint worn over your teeth while sleeping) which can help reduce the need for complex dental care over time.

 

Gum disease

 

Many studies have demonstrated the link between gum disease and stress. This may be related to stress related oral hygiene neglect such as missing regular dental appointments or less frequent brushing but also due to the way stress affects our immune system and increasing pro-inflammatory mediators which will increase your susceptibility to gum disease.

 

Dental decay

 

Stress can often mean we aren’t making the best choices to care for ourselves. This may include poor dietary choices such as increased high sugar foods (lollies, chocolates, soft drinks) and possibly even a decrease in our usual oral hygiene regime (eg. Skipping brushing). These two factors can lead to a significant increase in your risk for decay as the bacteria in your mouth are able to multiply at a higher rate and stay present longer.

 

Let’s get on top of stress!

 

It can feel like the stressors are a vicious cycle and that it may be difficult to get on top again. However, there are many things you can do to help with stress and improve your oral and general health.

 

Make sure you make time for yourself, eat well, exercise, reach out to a friend for help etc and if things are really hard it can be worth seeing your GP to help address your chronic stress.

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