Dr Andrea Stevens Stress and oral health

How Stress Damages Your Teeth and Jaw

How are stress and oral health related?

You have bills to pay, a family to take care of, a job to attend, and somewhere, between all of the craziness, you’re supposed to take time for yourself.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 48% of Canadians feel “really or seriously stressed” at least once a week. But how does that affect your oral health?

How is stress bad for my teeth?

When the pressure starts to rise in your professional or personal life, your body releases two hormones called adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline raises your heart rate, boosts your blood pressure and energy supplies. Cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, raises your sugar levels and increases the availability of chemicals and hormones that repair tissues.

These hormones trigger your nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. If your body produces these hormones for long periods of time, it can negatively affect your oral health.

When you’re stressed, your body rids itself of the “good” minerals and instead increases cavity-causing, acidic bacteria. In addition to this, you’re more likely to make poor diet choices when you’re stressed by relying on your favourite comfort foods like chocolate, candy, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. All of these foods are linked to tooth decay and cavities.

There is also an increased risk of gum disease.

When you’re stressed, the last thing on your mind is oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing regularly take a back seat to worrying about everything else. But it is especially important to take care of your teeth and gums during this time.

Since stress can damage your immune system, this can lead to chronically inflamed gums, which will eventually lead to gum disease. Over time this disease will damage the bones that are holding your teeth in place, resulting in tooth loss.

If left untreated, your gum disease can put you at risk of minor complications like the occasional cold to major illnesses like heart disease or even cancer.

How is stress bad for my jaw?

Have you ever noticed that you clench your jaw more when you’re stressed? Perhaps you don’t know you’re doing it until something causes you to relax, and then you feel some of the pressure disappear. If you don’t know you’re doing it when you’re awake, imagine what happens when you’re sleeping.

The technical name for grinding and clenching your jaw is called bruxism. It can be triggered by many things, including stress, and can severely damage your teeth and jaw. If you’re wondering how much damage you can do, consider that when you chew regularly, you’re exerting 20-40 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI)

But when you’re grinding your teeth the pressure can be 250 PSI or more.

This level of force can be responsible for many cosmetic and structural problems, including:

  • Pain in your head, neck, or jaw
  • Broken fillings or teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Teeth yellowing

In some severe cases, bruxism can weaken and loosen the bone surrounding your teeth and cause them to fall out.

What is the best way to protect my teeth and jaw from stress?

The best protection you can get is a dentist who is armed with the knowledge and experience to help mitigate the effects that stress has had on your teeth and jaw. If you’re looking for a dentist with said experience and knowledge, Dr. Andrea Stevens is only a few clicks away.

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