Though no one wants to have stress in their life, sometimes it seems like something that can’t be avoided. According to the American Institute of Stress, 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago and about 20% of people experience extreme stress. Long-term stress is hard on your body and could lead to increased risks of serious illnesses including heart attacks and strokes. Health issues associated with stress can also affect your teeth, which could mean a trip to the dentist. Some of these stress-related oral health issues include:
Bruxism is the technical term for grinding teeth and clenching jaws. Many people don’t even know they have bruxism because it most commonly occurs while you sleep, but it can also happen during the day due to stress. Mild bruxism may not require treatment, but if it is frequent or severe it may lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth, and other problems.
Gum disease starts out as gingivitis and may progress to a more severe form known as periodontitis if left untreated. Because stress weakens your immune system which fights against bacteria, gum disease can then get worse. The good news is, those who dealt with their stress in an active and positive way eliminated their risk of severe periodontal disease.
Canker sores are painful, non-contagious sores that appear in your mouth. Though the exact cause of canker sores is still unknown, there are many factors that have been shown to contribute to outbreaks including emotional stress.
Dry mouth occurs when your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva. It is commonly caused by certain medications or other diseases. Stress can contribute to this issue from medications often taken when you’re stressed like anti-anxiety medication. Dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth infections.
Now that you know some of the oral health issues associated with stress, here are some stress-relieving tips that can help you manage your stress better:
- 1. Meditation – even just a few minutes per day can help your brain become more resilient to stress
- 2. Deep breathing – though similar to meditation, this method can be used during high-stress moments to immediately de-escalate the situation by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure
- 3. Grounding – take time to be present and focus on your senses
- 4. Reach out – talk to your friends and family whether in person or on the phone, they may be able to offer advice or different viewpoints that could help.
Remember stress is part of life but you shouldn’t let it control you. We want you to be happy and healthy mentally and physically and would encourage you to speak with a professional dentist. If you have questions or concerns about how stress affects your health, talk to us during your next appointment or call the office today!