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How Stress Affects Your Oral Health

It may seem, off hand, like a very odd assertion to say that high stress levels negatively impact your oral health. But, in fact, there is much evidence that suggests this is exactly the case. In this busy, “go-go” life, some amount of stress may be inevitable, but when stress is extreme, near-constant, or is interfering with normal sleep patterns, that’s a sign it may be affecting your oral health as well.
Oral Health Problems That May Be Connected to High Stress Levels
Here are some oral health conditions that high stress increases the risk of:

1. Canker Sores
Canker sores are small whitish spots with red outlines that may appear on the inside of your mouth. While spicy/acidic foods, immune system deficiencies, and pathogens can all help cause cankers, stress also may contribute. Usually, these sores last ten days or less, but they are very uncomfortable while they remain.

2. Cold Sores
Another kind of mouth sore that stress can trigger is the cold sore. These sores will appear, however, on the outside of your mouth (on your lips). Your dentist or doctor may recommend Acyclovir derivatives to reduce the pain and length of time.

3. Gum Disease
There also seems to be a connection between gum disease and stress. Stress can weaken your immune defenses specifically by reducing blood flow to the peripheral tissues which can make periodontal problems more likely or exasperate an existing gum condition.

4. Dry Mouth
Nervousness can lead to low levels of saliva in your mouth, or “dry mouth.” Dry mouth removes beneficial effects of saliva to your oral health, such as dissolving and flushing away food particles and killing mouth bacteria.

5. Teeth Clenching/Grinding
When you react to stress by clenching or grinding your teeth, you put (another kind of) stress onto your teeth, which can wear down enamel on your crowns or even lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a painful joint disorder of lower jaw.

6. Neglect of Oral Hygiene
When you are stressed out, you are less likely to think of or take the time to properly brush, floss, and keep up your oral hygiene. And you are also less likely to make time for regular dental check-ups and cleanings, if chronically stressed.

7. Poor Eating Habits
Finally, many people revert to poor dietary nutrition when they feel heavy stress. “Junk food” seems like the answer to de-stress your system, but it may well be stressing out your oral health instead of helping.

How to Curb Stress and Its Effects on Your Oral Health
The first way to keep from “stressing out” your teeth and gums is to eliminate the problem at its source. Staying active and getting plenty of physical exercise, getting plenty of sunlight, keeping up regular, healthy sleep patterns, and eating healthy, vitamin-rich foods will all help.

Some ways to deal with specific stress-related oral conditions include:

  • Use a steroid ointment prescribed by your dentist for canker sores. Also cut back on spicy foods.
  • Use over-the-counter medicines to fight cold sores. And use lip balm in cold weather.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to prevent dry mouth and wash away food particles lodged between your teeth.
  • Wear a night guard while sleeping to prevent teeth clenching, and discipline yourself to avoid clenching/grinding during the day.
  • Brush at least twice a day, and use floss and mouth rinse at least once a day. Schedule a dental check-up twice a year.

Finally, if you see signs of deterioration of teeth/gums, do not delay to see your dentist. To learn more about stress’ connection to oral health, or to schedule a periodontal check-up, in Ormond Beach, FL, contact Dr. Kenzik.

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Ormond Beach Periodontics and Implant Dentistry is conveniently located on Nova Road in Ormond Beach, Florida. We help seniors, adults, and teenagers smile with confidence.

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