For most of us, a significant degree of stress is something we just accept living with. From work related stress, to financial stress, to family stress, to the anxieties related to major life changes, modern society rarely eases up on us! Stress on its own is not a bad thing. Stress is the body’s response to external world challenges, and can help elevate our coping responses. Too much stress for too long, however, can start taking a toll on the body, and the mouth is no exception. This month’s post will be exploring all of the ways that stress can affect your mouth, and what you can do about it.
A dentist can tell a lot about their clients’ state of mind by their oral health. Here is a quick rundown of symptoms that dentists can find, and what they mean.
- Poor overall general hygiene: Most of us grew up in the habit of brushing and flossing every day, but not all of us stick to these simple but important practices. Those who claim they are ‘too busy’ to take care of their teeth on a daily basis, generally have life stresses coming at them from all directions. A wise person once told me that if something is truly a priority, you would make time for it. Not taking the time to care for your teeth may be a sign for you that you should slow down some and reconsider your priorities!
- Mouth sores: Did you know that one of the main causes of mouth sores is stress? Mouth sores often appear at the tail end of a particularly stressful ordeal, or sometimes right as your body is getting sick (which is a stressful event for your body!)
- Worn down teeth: This is a big one, and one that should be investigated immediately. For many people, stress can manifest itself through our jaw muscles, resulting in clenched or grinding teeth. This can occur unconsciously (and without being noticed) both during the day and while you are asleep. Grinding your teeth at night can be particularly harmful, as even severe grinding can go unnoticed. This is something that we will point out to all clients, and we often recommend a sleeping mouth guard for serious cases. A simple mouth guard does wonders as your teeth can grind away on the spongy surface without incurring any damage. Some clients only experience severe grinding during times of increased stress. For others, a mouth guard may become a permanent necessity.
Although we will certainly be able to tell whether you are have a hard time with teeth clenching and grinding, there are ways for you to self diagnose. Do you often go to sleep feeling stressed, or wake up with a headache? If so, we encourage you to come in for a check up. Left untreated, teeth grinding can cause real and lasting damage to your teeth, sometimes severely so.
- Gum Disease: Your gum health is affected by many factors, including stress. If you allow yourself to get worn down, your gum health is more likely to deteriorate.
- Dry Mouth: Many people experience dry mouth when they become agitated or nervous. If this is a one time event, there will be no effect on your overall mouth health. A prolonged period of having a dry mouth, however, means your mouth will not have the same ability to clean itself out as effectively, leaving food particles in your teeth and gums that will subsequently cause an increased production of the bacteria that causes plaque.
Long Term Consequences of Stress on Your Mouth
If like most of us you live with a constant level of stress in your life, it is important for you to arrange for regular dental visits. Although the ideal long term solution would be to reduce stress and anxiety in your everyday life, if you believe you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should have them checked out immediately to prevent or reduce any potential lasting damage. If ignored, these mouth issues could result in a mouth conditioning that deteriorates to loss of teeth and jaw bone density. Look out for the signs of possible gum disease: bleeding, swollen gums, chronically foul breath, and loose teeth.
How Stonegate Can Help
At Stonegate Dental, we are both experienced in recognizing the warning signs of a ‘stressed out mouth’ and in helping you and your mouth get back in to shape. There is a lot that is going on in your mouth, and regular visits to us will ensure that we can address any issues present while you sort out the sources of stress that may be the cause. We invite you to book your dental appointment now to get your oral health, and coping with your stress, back on track!