Wellness Wednesday: the link between stress and oral health

Posted at 7:53 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 09:53:02-04

BOISE, Idaho — It's a stressful time for many, and while you may already know about the effects stress can have on your body, there are other, more specific health issues you should be aware of.

Some of the more obvious signs of stress include increased heart rate, faster breathing patterns, and sharper senses. There's also a chemical response with stress causing the nervous system to flood the body with high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, giving you that fight or flight feeling.

Dr. Russell Powell from Fairview Dental says those prolonged symptoms can be detrimental to your overall health.

"When it's a chronic thing, when these are going on in our blood for a long time, that can lead to decreased sleep and a weakened immune system and you can imagine all the problems that could compound, all the health problems as a result of lack of sleep and a lower immune system," explains Dr. Powell.

There are specific oral health issues that can be caused by stress. Dr. Powell says one of the most common he sees is bruxism, or teeth grinding.

"That can be a problem because that can lead to premature wear of teeth. It can lead to injury of our jaw joints. It some extreme cases it can lead to cracked teeth," says Dr. Powell. "If we're grinding our teeth at night, that can lead to poor sleep as well."

Dr. Powell says who are stressed tend to have a poor diet meaning they aren't eating or drinking things to promote healthy tissue growth or avoid cavities and gum disease. They could also deal with chronic dry mouth.

"Less saliva in your mouth could lead to a higher risk of tooth decay and higher risk of gum disease, and some people even experience mouth sores or canker sores with elevated levels of stress," says Dr. Powell.

If you notice you're grinding your teeth or experiencing any of these symptoms, Dr. Russell says it's important to book an appointment with your dentist now to help get you on the right track. Your dentist may recommend eating softer foods, wearing a mouth guard at night, and exercises to loosen your jaw.

If you're feeling stressed, you can also try other ways to relieve it by staying active and exercising, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy, balanced diet, drinking the recommended amount of water, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation.

For more information on managing stress for good oral health, click here.