A certain amount of stress is a normal part of life, but too much stress can negatively affect your oral health. When stressed, the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to help the body cope. The body uses different organs to eliminate these chemicals, including the salivary glands. The stimulated glands produce additional saliva, which washes away food particles and neutralizes acids in foods, helping to protect the teeth from decay.
Stress and Oral Health
There are several ways in which stress can cause poor oral health.
With chronic stress, the stimulation of the salivary glands becomes excessive, and the glands may have trouble keeping up with the amount of saliva produced. This can lead to a dry mouth. Saliva is important for healthy teeth because it helps to wash away plaque and bacteria and keeps the mouth cool and moist.
Without enough saliva, the mouth isn’t properly protected, increasing the risk of tooth decay and other oral health problems. A dry mouth can also cause bad breath‚ since there’s no saliva to wash it away. Additionally‚ the gums may become irritated by the lack of moisture. Gums may become swollen or bleed more easily when brushed‚ putting you at risk for gum disease.
People who experience extreme levels of stress often grind their teeth at night while they sleep. This can cause headaches and other pain in the face, as well as distress to the tooth enamel and the supporting structures of the jaw. Grinding also wears the teeth down faster, which can lead to tooth loss. It’s especially important for people suffering from bruxism to seek treatment from a dentist for preventative care before further damage occurs.
If you’re experiencing any level of tooth sensitivity and discomfort, it’s important that you call your dentist as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. This goes double if you’ve been grinding your teeth regularly, as the pressure from your teeth can cause cracks that may eventually lead to tooth decay.
If you have trouble managing your stress levels in healthy ways, consider speaking with a medical professional who can help. In the meantime, try drinking plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash to help strengthen the teeth and fight off bacteria. You can also practice good dental hygiene by brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing every day.