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How Stress Affects Dental Health and Hygiene

The world is a stressful place. We work more, we have fewer hours of sleep, we spend more and more time glued to a screen – all of these and more can contribute to persistent, chronic stress.

Most people are aware of the effects of stress. Stress leads to muscle tension, poor sleep, weight gain, anxiety, and countless other challenges that affect both the mind and body. But if you needed yet another reason to control your stress, it’s important to note that stress can also affect your dental health – specifically, teeth grinding.

Stress and Tooth Grinding

Many people grind their teeth at night. That tooth grinding can be so loud it wakes up partners that are light sleepers. Even some dentists blame the patient for their teeth grinding, as the effects of grinding can be problematic for your dental health.

But the grinding is not your fault.

Studies have shown that stress can cause people to grind their teeth at night while they sleep. Though it’s not clear why it happens during sleep, the result are:

  • Damaged teeth
  • Jaw inflammation
  • Tension headaches, and several other dental health challenges.

If you grind your teeth at night, the problem isn’t just a silly habit. The problem is likely to be stress, and it’s something that is worth noticing if you hope to improve your oral health.

The Effects of Stress on Dental Health

Stress doesn’t just affect grinding either. As dentists, we can sometimes see stress in the health of your teeth and gums. Our dental care is important for maintaining your oral health, but along with flossing and brushing you should also consider self-care as part of your at home regimen. That is because stress has been clinically linked to the following common challenges:

  • Excess Plaque/Gum Disease – Even if you brush and floss regularly, stress can potentially lead to plaque buildup, and ultimately the development of gum disease. Stress weakens the immune system, which in turn allows bacteria to thrive.
  • TMJ – Temporomandibular joint disorder, or “TMJ,” is a pain in the jaw that may radiate to the head. It is caused by an inflamed joint where the jaw meets the skull. Though there are many factors that can contribute to TMJ, both teeth clenching and teeth grinding can cause it. Both are connected to excess stress.
  • Dry Mouth – Finally, severe stress and anxiety may require medical intervention. But the medications that treat stress may also cause dry mouth. Indeed, stress itself can cause dry mouth on its own, but the effects may be more severe when taking medication.

Stress also has a tendency to cause complacency. Those under heavy stress may also be less likely to brush and floss, which in turn can lead to problems with dental health.

Mouth Guards

While you assess your personal health and stress, a great solution to keep from grinding is a Mouth Guard.

A custom mouth guard counteracts clenching and grinding by helping the jaw to stay in a relaxed position.  A mouth guard draws the jaw down and forward which relieves pressure on the TM joint and negates excessive release of cortisol hormone.  This relaxed jaw position increases air flow which increases oxygen intake, helping to reduce the build-up of lactic acid in muscles.

Stress Reduction as Oral Healthcare

At Dental Concepts & Orthodontics our goal is to make our patients feel comfortable and cared for. A dentist should never make you feel uncomfortable or shamed for your dental health. While you continue to focus on stress reduction at home, we will work on keeping your smile clean, healthy, and cared for. Give us a call today at 831.443.3633 to schedule an appointment, and make sure you keep taking care of yourself in the meantime.