Our modern world is full of complex issues that often lead to a low, or high, level of constant stress for many people. Most of us are aware of the physical and emotional symptoms of stress. While our bodies are made to cope with short durations of stress, a constant level of stress will begin to impact our health in negative ways. Headaches, anxiety, stomachaches and insomnia are common effects of stress. But often people are surprised to learn that stress can negatively affect their oral health too.
It is important to become aware of the causes of stress and your body’s warning signs of the negative effects of stress. It is also important to take steps to reduce the stress in your life.
Some of the Oral conditions that can be caused by stress include:
Problems with your jaw. Disorders of the jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint, and the chewing muscles, can cause pain around the ears or in your face. This can lead to a host of other, secondary issues.
Bruxism, or grinding your teeth. This can happen during the day when you’re concentrating on something and may not notice that your are clenching or grinding your teeth. It often happens at night while you are sleeping as well.
A less obvious side effect of stress is poor oral hygiene. If you are too busy or distracted to keep up on good brushing and flossing habits, you can wind up with tooth decay and gum disease.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1. However, this virus can be triggered by stress, dental treatment or sunlight.
Other oral infections or sores which may appear as ulcers, red or white spots or lines in your mouth can also be brought on by stress.
A decreased or depressed immune system function can lead to periodontal, or gum disease.
As mentioned above, it is important to get to the root of why you are experiencing stress in your life and take appropriate steps to lower or eliminate these stressors from your life. If you find that you are experiencing some of these oral conditions that can be brought on or aggravated by stress, there are things you can do to get some relief.
First, talk to your dentist about treatment options.
Address teeth grinding and clenching by asking your dentist about getting a custom-fitted night guard. These can be worn at night to prevent damage to your teeth from grinding and clenching. A night guard also creates a cushion to reduce the stress on your aching joint and muscle tissues that can become aggravated through constant clenching and grinding.
Avoid eating hard or crunchy foods when you are experiencing pain.
Don’t turn to tobacco or alcohol to cope with stress. These products are well known to make your oral symptoms worse.
Learn to manage pain through gentle massage techniques, physical therapy or pain relief medications.
Ask your dentist about prescription medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce inflammation in the jaw joint. Antiviral drugs can help prevent cold sores.
Avoid the sun, or use a sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF to help reduce cold sores.
It is important to your overall health to reduce the toxic effects of stress in your life. Take the necessary steps to identify and eliminate unnecessary stress and your body will thank you for it.