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Stress and Your Oral Health

Stress is never fun. It can affect our minds, bodies, and relationships. From jobs to life problems, stress can create a swirl of issues. Many of us are aware of the effects stress can have on our minds and bodies. For example, stress can cause headaches, increase blood pressure, and create muscle tension. Similarly, stress can negatively affect your oral health

Woman holding her head in pain while working stress dentist in Virginia Beach Virginia

Poor Oral Hygiene

When we are stressed, we are more likely to choose foods that bring us comfort. Also, we may gravitate towards foods that are quick to eat or prepare. Unfortunately, many of these choices are not healthy choices. We tend to eat foods that are high in sugar or carbs, which can be bad for our teeth. 

While sugar and carbs alone are not detrimental to your teeth, the reactions they have with the bacteria in your mouth are. The bacteria feed on the sugar and carbs, turning them into acid. This can cause tooth decay without proper oral hygiene. Consequently, our oral health is not typically at the top of our list when stressed. 

Stress can affect the way that we take care of our teeth. This can look like rushing through our routine in order to get it done quicker. Or, you might opt not to floss. As a result, you can leave food particles and plaque behind. Over time, you can develop tooth decay or gum disease. Leftover plaque can harden into tartar, which needs a hygienist to remove. This can create a domino effect of plaque buildup and calcification. 

Ultimately, your oral hygiene suffers. 

Immune System

Stress can affect your immune system. When stressed, your body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Essentially, these hormones heighten your ability to make quick decisions or defend yourself. This is why they are called the “fight or flight” hormones. However, your body and your immune system cannot endure these hormones for long periods of time. 

Over time, your immune system loses its ability to fight off sickness and infections. This can also drastically affect your oral health. For example, gum disease is an infection of the gums. It develops from plaque buildup under the gum line, causing irritation. Eventually, the gums will become swollen and inflamed. Without treatment, gum disease can progress to severe infection, loose or missing teeth, or bone loss. 

A reduced immune system can affect your body’s ability to fight gum disease. 

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is another way that stress can negatively affect your oral health. While stress is not a direct cause of grinding your teeth, it is a risk factor. People who have high amounts of stress are more likely to grind their teeth. 

Grinding your teeth can cause issues over time. For example, the action of grinding your teeth can wear down your enamel. The enamel is what protects the nerves and blood vessels inside your teeth. So, wearing down this protective layer can put you at risk of developing tooth decay. At the very least, your teeth will be more sensitive to temperatures and sugary or acidic foods.