Stress is a common experience in today's fast-paced world, but did you know that it can also have a significant impact on your oral health?
Yes, you heard it right. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, leading to a variety of oral health problems, including gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. In addition, stress-related behaviours such as grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, and neglecting your oral hygiene routine can further worsen oral health.
Understanding the connection between stress and oral health is crucial for maintaining a healthy mouth and a well-functioning body.
In this article, we will deep delve into the various ways in which stress can affect your oral health and what you can do to manage it.
“Also read - How to properly brush and floss”
How stress can impact oral health?
Stress can impact oral health in several ways:
1. Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching)
Bruxism is a condition in which a person grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw, often while they sleep. This can lead to tooth damage, jaw pain, headaches, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Stress and anxiety are common causes of bruxism.
The exact mechanism by which stress causes bruxism is not clear, but it is thought to be related to the body's "fight or flight" response, in which the muscles tense up as a result of stress.
To cure bruxism, the following methods may be helpful:
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Identifying and managing the sources of stress and anxiety can help reduce bruxism. This can include practising relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, and talking to a mental health professional.
- Wear a mouthguard: Wearing a mouthguard while sleeping can help prevent damage to the teeth and jaw from bruxism.
- Practise good sleep hygiene: Getting enough sleep and practising good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding screens before bedtime and creating a relaxing sleep environment, can help reduce bruxism.
- Change certain behaviours: Habits such as chewing on pencils, pens, or ice can increase bruxism. Avoiding these behaviours and practising stress-reducing techniques can help.
- Medications: In some cases, medications such as muscle relaxants or antidepressants may be prescribed to help reduce bruxism.
2. Poor oral hygiene
Poor oral hygiene refers to a lack of proper care and attention given to the teeth, gums, and tongue. This can result in plaque buildup, tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Stress can cause poor oral hygiene in a few ways.
When people are stressed, they may neglect their regular oral care routine, such as brushing and flossing. Additionally, stress can cause people to engage in unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking, which can harm the health of the mouth.
Finally, stress can also increase the production of stress hormones, which can lead to dry mouth, a condition that can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
To cure poor oral hygiene, it is important to follow a consistent oral care routine, including brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using mouthwash. It is also important to see a dentist regularly for professional cleanings and check-ups. Additionally, reducing stress through relaxation techniques and maintaining a healthy diet can help to maintain good oral health
3. Dry mouth
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth produce less saliva than normal. This can result in a feeling of dryness in the mouth and throat, as well as difficulty speaking, eating, and swallowing.
Dry mouth can also increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Stress can cause dry mouth by increasing the production of stress hormones, which can affect the salivary glands and reduce saliva production.
Additionally, stress can also lead to habits such as mouth breathing, which can also contribute to dry mouth. There are several ways to cure dry mouth:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can increase dehydration.
- Chew gum or suck on hard candy: This can stimulate the production of saliva and relieve dry mouth symptoms.
- Use a saliva substitute: Over-the-counter saliva substitutes can help to moisten the mouth and relieve dryness.
- Avoid mouth-breathing: Breathing through the nose can help to keep the mouth moist.
- Treat underlying conditions: If dry mouth is caused by a medical condition, treating that condition can help to relieve the symptoms of dry mouth.
- Reduce stress: Relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga, can help to reduce stress and relieve dry mouth.
It's important to see a dentist or doctor if dry mouth persists, as it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
4. Canker sores
Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that can appear inside the mouth, on the tongue, or on the gums. They are a type of oral lesion that can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress.
Stress can cause canker sores by compromising the immune system, making a person more susceptible to infection or irritation. Other potential causes of canker sores include injury to the mouth, certain foods or drinks, hormonal changes, and some medications.
There is no one definitive cure for canker sores, as the underlying cause can vary from person to person. However, some remedies that may help to alleviate symptoms and speed up the healing process include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Topical treatments, such as numbing gels or creams
- Rinsing the mouth with salt water or baking soda
- Avoiding acidic, spicy, or salty foods that can irritate the sores Getting adequate rest and managing stress through techniques such as exercise, meditation, or therapy
If canker sores persist or become frequent, it is important to see a doctor or dentist, who can help determine the underlying cause and provide a personalised treatment plan.
5. Suppressed immune system
A suppressed immune system refers to a state where the body's natural defence mechanisms are not functioning at optimal levels. This can increase a person's susceptibility to illness and infections.
Stress and anxiety can lead to a suppressed immune system by triggering the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can interfere with the function of the immune system and make it less effective at fighting off infections and diseases. In addition, chronic stress and anxiety can also contribute to other lifestyle factors, such as poor sleep and diet, which can also weaken the immune system.
A suppressed immune system can impact oral health in several ways. For example, people with a weakened immune system may be more susceptible to oral infections, such as thrush (a type of yeast infection in the mouth) or oral herpes. They may also have a more difficult time fighting off oral bacteria that can cause gum disease.
To help boost the immune system and improve oral health, it is important to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as:
- Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Getting enough sleep Managing stress through techniques such as relaxation, mindfulness, or therapy
- Brushing and flossing regularly to maintain good oral hygiene
- Visiting a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups
- Avoiding habits that can weaken the immune system, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption