Oral Manifestations of Stress
It has been well studied that stress can contribute to serious health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Less obvious, though, is that stress can leave their signs on our teeth and gums as well. Sometimes we end up with issues we didn’t even know are dental, and we are even clueless that we are stressed.
A common dental problem that can be related to stress is teeth grinding. Day time and especially night time teeth clenching applies undue pressure on teeth and gums. It can cause headaches, chipped or flattened teeth surfaces, and tight jaw muscles. Unchecked, it can lead to improper bites and the breakdown of the temporomandibular joint connecting the skull to the jawbone. If you’ve been grinding teeth beforehand, stress exacerbate the situation.
There are certain drugs taken for depression and anxiety, including Prozac and Zoloft, that may lead to jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding many people are not aware they cause. This is a case of anti-stress drugs causing stressful situations.
Some studies linked stress to oral issues. A review of scientific studies in 2007 found a relationship between stress and periodontal disease, which also includes the lesser form, gingivitis. A Canadian report, only recently, found that participants who were more stressed had poorer oral health and greater oral pain compared with participants who had less stress. A hormone involved in the body’s stress response, cortisol, weakens the immune system, making a person more susceptible to gum disease.
People who are stressed out most of the time pay little attention to self-care routines, and oral hygiene is one of those. They disregard proper oral hygiene, leading to inflamed gums or tooth decay.
Today’s times are proving to be more stressful for Americans. According to a recent “Stress in America” report from the American Psychological Association, Americans on average reported more physical symptoms of stress in 2017 compared with 2016, including anxiety, anger, and fatigue. Most commonly cited reasons were the “future of our nation,” money, and work. It was the first significant increase in stress levels found by the APA since the inaugural survey in 2007.
Stress-Free Living for Better Oral Health
As if living with stress isn’t bad enough for one’s general well-being, unchecked stress can create havoc on oral health as well. We always remind our patients that oral issues are mostly as preventable as dealing with stress.