We have heard about the recent statistics about how stress affects your body – prolonged stress can cause increased risk of heart attack, stroke, mental illness and even diabetes. What we don’t often hear about in the media is how stress adversely affects your oral health. Is your stress causing issues in your mouth?
How does stress affect oral health?
- It slows healing time. When your body is fighting stress, it is not working at the optimal level. If you are trying to recover from mouth surgery, this could potentially cause delayed healing time.
- It contributes to bleeding in the gums (gingivitis). Our hygiene department has seen it time and again – a patient with good oral hygiene, who suddenly presents with red, inflamed and bleeding gums. When we dig a little deeper to understand the cause of the inflammation, it is often determined that the only change is the addition of stress. Stress has been shown to lower the immune system.
- Canker sores or cold sores. Again, due to a lowered immune system, stress can bring on canker or cold sores which can be very uncomfortable and can even affect your appetite.
- Teeth grinding. Prolonged stress can cause grinding and clenching when asleep or awake. This causes undue wear on teeth and gums and can lead to sensitivity as well as recession.
- Poor oral hygiene. When under stress, the last thing many patients think of is brushing their teeth. Lack of good oral hygiene causes a build up of plaque and bacteria which will result in an increased risk of dental cavities.
If you are experiencing a higher load of stress than usual, it is important to try to reduce it by implementing stress reduction techniques such as meditation, physical activity or talking to a professional who may be able to help. It may also be beneficial for you to make a dental appointment allowing your oral health team the opportunity to help manage any of the oral symptoms related to stress. As always, we welcome a call or email if you think you may be under stress and would like to know how to help your oral health!