Have you been particularly stressed lately? If so, your family members or friends may have expressed the need for self-care as of late—and with good reason! Stress can have major impacts on your well-being. Here are just four ways that stress can affect your oral health.
1. Stress can cause nighttime bruxism (or teeth grinding).
Have you ever noticed that, during periods of intense stress, you wake up in the mornings with a headache or jaw pain? If so, you may be one of the many people who suffers from nighttime bruxism as a result of their stress. Our body’s natural reaction to the stress hormone, cortisol, is to grind your teeth during your sleep. This helps to release the hormone throughout the night in a similar way that screaming or punching a pillow may do so while you are awake. Unlike punching a pillow, though, this stress relief method can actually have serious effects on your health. In addition to causing headaches and facial pain, nighttime bruxism can lead to broken or loose teeth, TMJ issues, and tooth decay.
2. Infections can occur when stress compromises your immune system.
It is a well-known fact that stress can deteriorate your immune system, putting you at risk for health issues like infection. One such infection that can occur when you’re stressed is gingivitis—an infection of the gums. This infection is very common, but can have some serious consequences if left untreated. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, which can lead to major issues like respiratory illness, heart disease, and even stroke in serious cases. Deficiencies in your immune system can also lead to mouth ulcers, which make it painful to eat, speak, and chew your food. If you’ve suffered from chronic stress and believe it may be impacting your oral health, be sure to contact your dentist straight away to schedule your next check-up.
3. Clenching your jaw can cause TMJ issues.
When you’re stressed or tense, your body’s natural reaction is for your muscles to tense up and for your jaw to clench. Too much of this, however, can actually cause serious problems for your temporomandibular joint—the joint that connects your jaw to the skull. If you notice your jaw locking on occasion, or a popping/clicking sound when you open your mouth, it is important that you address the issue with your dentist.
4. Certain medications for stress can lead to dry mouth.
Unfortunately, certain medications that are used to manage chronic stress can have side effects on your oral health. Dry mouth is one common side effect that can make it very uncomfortable to speak, swallow, or chew. It can also make your teeth more susceptible to decay and even allow odor-causing bacteria to flourish. If you’re experiencing this side effect of your medications, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or dentist to review your options.
Do you want to ensure that your teeth and gums are still in good health? Time to schedule your next dental check-up! Call Advanced Family Dental & Orthodontics of Mt. Olive to set up your next appointment.