April is Stress Awareness Month and a great time to discuss how stress affects your oral health. Jaw issues, a common result of bruxism or teeth grinding is just one symptom associated with stress. Other associated oral side effects from stress include: canker sores, gum disease, and burning mouth syndrome.
What is Stress?
Unfortunately, stress is all too common. Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can occur after any event or even a thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is a natural reaction to a challenge or demand, MedlinePlus explains. However, when stress occurs for too long, it can harm your health. There are two kinds of stress:
Acute stress: This is a short-term that goes away quickly. You can feel it when slamming on the brakes, having a fight with a friend, or even when you are just playing sports. It is a way to help you manage dangerous situations. Alternatively, it can also happen when you are doing something new or exciting. Everyone experiences acute stress.
Chronic stress: This is a longer term type of stress. You may experience this if you have money problems, are unhappy at work, or experience issues within a relationship with a partner, friend, or family member. Feeling like this for weeks or months is chronic. Unfortunately, you can become so used to it that you don’t realize it’s an issue. If you don’t find a way to manage it, it could lead to health problems.
Stress and Your Smile
People often get headaches or stomach aches when they feel stressed or anxious, however, do you know what it does to your smile? Stress can affect your oral health in a number of ways, including:
- Jaw issues, or disorders of the jaw joint or chewing muscles (TMJ pain). This can cause pain around the ear or face.
- Teeth grinding. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding can occur during the gain, especially when you’re concentrating, or at night while you’re sleeping.
- Poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush your teeth well or floss when you’re too busy, you can end up suffering from tooth decay and gum disease.
- Cold sores. These are caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1. Cold sores are often triggered by dental treatment, stress, and sunlight.
- Oral infections or sores. These sores can show up as ulcers, white lines, or white and red spots — which can occur when you’re under a lot of pressure.
- Decreased immune response. When you’re stressed, your immune system doesn’t operate optimally, which can lead to gum disease.
If you have any of the signs of dental health issues and believe they’re caused by stress, there are things you can do to try and overcome it. If you suffer from stress, try these tips:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Exercising is a good way to release pent up tension and can provide relief in a matter of minutes.
- Try breathing exercises. Practice deep breaths and change the way you’re breathing to calm your mind and body when you feel worked up.
- Talk to a therapist. Sometimes the best way to reduce stress is by talking to someone. If you’re not comfortable confiding in a family member or friend, consider meeting with a therapist who can help you learn techniques to reduce stress and calm you down.
- Ask your doctor about supplements. Oftentimes we don’t get all of the nutrients we need. If you are chronically stressed, seeing your doctor to discuss nutrient deficiencies and finding out what supplements you should be taking could help reduce your stress.
To protect your mouth while you’re stressed, remember that you only get one set of teeth and prioritize brushing your teeth for at least two minutes a day. While you may feel like you don’t have the time, it’s important to take those few minutes to care for your smile in the morning and again right before bed.
Make an Appointment with Young Family Dental
If you are feeling stressed and you see that it is taking a toll on your dental health, make an appointment to come see our team at Young Family Dental. We will be able to help you with your symptoms or condition. Additionally, we will also be able to make suggestions on what you can do to try and reduce stress and protect your smile at the same time. To make an appointment with us, contact us!