How Employee Stress Impacts Dental Health

Stressed woman sitting at desk in office surrounded by paperwork.

Americans are among the most stressed employees in the world, new Gallup research shows. As many as 57% of workers surveyed feel stress daily, an increase of 8% from the previous year. High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to medical and dental health problems. Specifically, here’s how employee stress impacts dental health.

  1. Nutrition

    Many employees who are stressed also struggle with depression. Medical experts believe that when people are anxious and depressed, they may not take care of themselves. They eat less nutritious foods and more comfort foods that usually are loaded with carbohydrates and sugars. These foods taste good, but particles from them left in the mouth can combine with oral bacteria and eventually cause tooth decay and gum disease. Researchers found that nearly 66% of people diagnosed with depression report having a toothache.

  1. Daily care

    During stressful times, many people put off doing everyday healthy habits, such as brushing and flossing their teeth. A study by the American Association of Endodontists found that adults did not practice good brushing and flossing habits during the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 23% reported not brushing their teeth at bedtime and 21% did not brush their teeth in the morning; 24% flossed less frequently and 23% forgot to floss.

  1. Bruxism

    During the pandemic, dentists have reported seeing more patients with worn and cracked teeth caused by teeth grinding. Since most people grind their teeth while sleeping, dentists may recommend night mouth guards for patients to protect their teeth. They also may encourage patients to engage in exercise and lifestyle changes to help lower their stress.

  1. Dry mouth and sores

    Stress also can cause dry mouth. This means that saliva in the mouth is not rinsing teeth and gums to remove oral bacteria and food particles. Over time, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay. Some medications and CPAP use may cause dry mouth, too. Medical experts believe that mouth sores also are caused by stress.

  1. Immunity

    Increased anxiety can cause the stress hormone cortisol to weaken the immune system. When immunity is low and people aren’t practicing good oral hygiene, it’s easier for oral bacteria to damage gums and cause inflammation. If not treated, decay can damage enamel and attack the bone and roots of teeth, causing severe oral health problems.

  1. Productivity

    When employees don’t feel well due to oral pain, they struggle to focus on their work. Often, they miss work to deal with discomfort from tooth decay or gum disease, or after an extensive dental procedure. Research shows employees’ poor health costs American businesses $575 billion and 1.5 billion days of lost productivity.

Medical experts say that the healthiness of your mouth could be an indicator of your overall wellness. Learn how dental health affects body health.