5 ways stress affects your teeth (and 5 things you can do about it)

By February 14, 2018 The Dental Surgery Blog
stress and teeth

Learn how some simple habits and exercises can help improve your workday – and your smile!

It seems every decade has its health demons, from alcohol to fat to sugar, but one that is timeless is stress. With seemingly less time and fewer resources to accomplish our goals, it’s inevitable that more of us are increasingly stressed at home and at work. Your GP might be concerned about your blood pressure, your physio might be monitoring your neck and back pain, but why should it worry your dentist?

You might be surprised to learn that your stress has a direct (and negative) impact on your teeth. Here are the top five ways stress can affect your oral health:

You may grind your teeth
Also called bruxism, teeth grinding while you sleep is something you may not even be aware you’re doing, yet can have serious knock-on effects, such as jaw and neck pain, headaches, tooth wear and even cracked or broken teeth.

You could develop TMJD
Teeth clenching and grinding because of stress can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD), which may require you to wear a mouth guard or even undergo further dental treatment.

You increase your risk of gum disease
Stress compromises your immune system, which means your body’s ability to fight bacteria is weakened. This opens the floodgates for gingivitis and its more serious cousin, periodontitis.

You may get mouth ulcers
There are many possible causes of mouth ulcers, but stress is at the top of the list. Apart from being unpleasant, the ulcers are an invitation for bacterial infection.

You’re more likely to neglect your oral hygiene
From lack of sleep causing us to be too tired to tend to our daily oral hygiene as assiduously as we should, to stress-eating and an increased craving for sugar, stress is just plain bad news for oral health.

So, what do we suggest you do about it?

Just trying to find time in a busy day to de-stress can be stressful in itself – call it meta-stress if you will! Fear not, there are lots of little ways to beat stress on a regular basis that won’t carve too much time out of your day. Here are our five favourites:

Go on holiday (at your desk)
No, we know a holiday may not be in your timetable (or budget), but just close your eyes for five minutes and visualise where you’d go if you could. Try to really ‘be’ there, imagining the sights and sounds.

Taking a series of deep breaths, where you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, can take less than a minute but has surprisingly calming effect.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you tense then relax every muscle in your body, one at a time. You might not realise which ones were tense until you focus on them.

No, not alcohol – that’s definitely not the best way to combat stress – but make sure you’re getting your fill of that magical cure-all elixir: water. Staying hydrated helps prevents headaches, which contribute to the ‘stressed-out’ feeling, and also forces you to take frequent toilet breaks!

The physical act of smiling forces your facial muscles into a position that triggers the release of endorphins – your body’s natural ‘happy’ chemical. And who knows, your smile might be catching and help the people you work with!

If you have any concerns about the effects of stress on your dental health, book in today. We’ll check you over and give you lots of great advice!