How Does Stress Impact Your Oral Health?

Tired young mother and child laying face down on a table.

Nearly 80% of Americans report feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. People often get stressed when they’re busy and have little time to rest and relax. They’re working to meet deadlines at work, juggling family responsibilities or dealing with health problems. Due to the pandemic, about 40% of people say that stress from mental and behavioral health concerns has interfered with their daily lives.

New studies show that stress also can affect your teeth and gums. Review the following information to answer the question: How does stress impact your oral health?

Stress-related dental conditions
In March 2021, the American Dental Association reported that dentists had noticed a 70% increase in patients with stress-related dental conditions. That’s up 10% from 2020.

Here are six ways stress can impact your oral health:

  1. Teeth grinding

    (bruxism) – Sometimes when people are stressed, they clench or grind their teeth, often at night. This can cause cracked teeth. Your dentist may recommend a nightguard to wear while sleeping to protect your teeth and jaw.

  1. TMJ

    The jawbone is connected to the skull by the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ, that acts as a hinge. There is one TMJ joint on each side of the jaw. Clenching and grinding teeth can cause pain in the TMJ joint and the muscles that direct jaw movement. If you have jaw pain, contact your dentist for an evaluation. The dentist will determine the reason for TMJ pain and recommend treatment options. Common treatments are medications to relieve inflammation, a nightguard, crowns to balance biting surfaces or surgery.

  1. Canker sores

    Although these painful sores are small in size, they can cause a lot of pain. Several factors may cause the sores to develop, but dentists believe stress is the primary reason.

  1. Dry mouth

    Saliva is a natural cleanser that rinses foods and bacteria from teeth. If your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, you may have chronic dryness, which can be uncomfortable. Dental professionals believe stress, and some medications used to treat depression, can reduce saliva flow. This can increase the risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. See your dentist for treatment options.

    Due to COVID-19, people are wearing masks many hours during the day to help avoid catching the virus. Some people report experiencing dry mouth and bad breath.

  1. Lichen planus

    This common disease develops on your skin and in your mouth. Inside the mouth, lichen planus looks like lacy patches of tiny white dots. They can appear on the inside of your cheeks or on the tongue. Medical professionals believe lichen planus is a reaction to viral infections caused by stress.

  1. Burning mouth syndrome

    Dental experts have not found a cause for a burning sensation people may feel on their gums, tongue, lips or roof of the mouth. Burning mouth syndrome could be caused by illness, disease, stress, allergies, hormones, acid reflux, nutrition deficiency or medications.

    COVID-19 has affected Americans in many ways. Learn more ways the pandemic has impacted oral health.

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