Stress and Oral Health

Stress can take a toll on your oral health.

You may associate stress with a number of physical symptoms including migraines, indigestion, and anxiety—but did you know that stress can leave a lasting impact on your oral health as well? In fact, stress can affect your mouth, teeth, and gums, which in turn can affect your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re experiencing a high level of chronic stress, pay careful attention to your oral health to avoid long-term problems.

The Stress Connection

What does stress have to do with oral health? It turns out, a lot. Stress has been associated with canker sores, teeth grinding (bruxism), poor hygiene, dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome, TMJ, and gum disease—with gum disease being the most serious problem.

Long-term stress can lead to chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can weaken the immune system. When the immune system is weak, conditions are ripe for bacteria from plaque to invade the gums. More and more research is revealing a strong link between stress and gum disease (periodontal disease). A Brazilian analysis of 14 previous studies showed that individuals under stress have a higher risk of gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease include bleeding gums, swollen gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

Stress and Oral Hygiene

Perhaps one of the most serious consequences of stress is that it can derail your oral hygiene program, which in turn leads to oral health issues. People under stress tend to neglect their oral hygiene routines and may not brush or floss as often as necessary. Furthermore, stress can lead to several detrimental behaviors such as poor diet, smoking, and alcohol abuse. Individuals who are stressed tend to consume more sugary and starchy foods, which can lead to tooth decay.

So, if your stress hasn’t already directly resulted in oral health issues, your failure to keep up with your oral hygiene will.

Protecting Oral Health

Stress is inevitable; gum disease is not. If you’re experiencing a high level of stress, take preventive measures to reduce your stress and protect your oral health.

  • Brush at least twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Schedule regular appointments with your dentist
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Take steps to reduce stress and/or find an outlet for relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • Keep a toothbrush on hand so that you can protect oral health even when working long hours.

Reference:

Peruzzo DC, Benatti BB, Ambrosano GMB, et al. A systemic review of stress and psychological factors as possible risk factors for periodontal disease. Journal of Periodontology. 2007; 78(8): 1491-1504.