Categories: Dental Health Tips

by Flagship Dental

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woman looking stressed

Your body lets you know when you’re stressed. Maybe your stomach gets tied up in knots or you don’t sleep well. 

But, did you know that stress and dental health are connected? While you might think it’s all in your head, stress can manifest itself in surprising ways, particularly in your mouth.

How Stress Affects Oral Health

When you face day-to-day stress, your body reacts physically, emotionally, and mentally with a fight-or-flight response. This natural response is designed to protect you from danger.

But, when this happens too often, it takes a toll on your body. This includes your oral health, which can be affected in many ways. Furthermore, the more you feel stressed, the more you might neglect your oral hygiene.

Teeth Grinding

One of the most common ways stress affects dental health is through teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Stress causes tension, and many people clench their jaws or grind their teeth unconsciously throughout the day or even while they sleep.

This constant grinding wears down tooth enamel, leading to increased sensitivity, chipped or cracked teeth, and even jaw pain and headaches. 

If left untreated, tooth loss is possible, and you may even need dental implants to replace damaged teeth. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, schedule some time to speak with us about getting a mouth guard. At Flagship Dental, we offer custom night guards that are safe and comfortable to wear while you’re sleeping. 

Canker Sores

While the exact cause of canker sores is still unknown, research suggests that stress increases the risk of developing these painful mouth ulcers. Although not contagious, canker sores can make eating and speaking uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, the more stressed you feel, the more likely these pesky ulcers will pop up. Canker sores are usually benign and clear up on their own, but if you have any concerns, we’d be happy to speak with you about that, too.

Our comprehensive dental exams will help us uncover any underlying issues affecting your teeth, throat, mouth, and gums. 

Dry Mouth

Have you ever noticed that your mouth feels dry when you’re nervous or anxious? This is your body’s response to stress. Research shows that stress, anxiety, and depression can reduce the amount of saliva your glands produce.

Saliva is your mouth’s natural defense against tooth decay and gum disease, washing away food particles and harmful bacteria. But, when your mouth is dry from stress, your risk for cavities and oral infections increases. This is one of many reasons why it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.

A perpetually dry mouth can cause chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis. Fear not, we’re glad to help patients battling this condition, starting with a comprehensive examination, followed by a comprehensive treatment plan

Gum Disease

Stress doesn’t only make you more susceptible to developing gum disease; it can worsen existing cases, too. It all comes down to your immune system.

Chronic stress makes it much harder for your body to fight off infections, including those affecting your gums. This allows gum disease, also called periodontal disease, to progress from a mild form of gingivitis (inflammation) to a more serious condition called periodontitis. 

Poor oral hygiene can also lead to gum disease and other health problems, so maintaining good oral hygiene is important for your overall health.

In periodontitis, your gums pull away from your teeth, forming pockets where harmful bacteria can flourish. Eventually, this can even lead to bone and tooth loss. What makes it worse? Oral infections actually further weaken your immune system, setting off a vicious cycle that’s tough to break. Early warning signs of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, so seeing your dentist right away if you notice these warning signs can help protect your oral health.

Neglected Oral Hygiene

We’ve all been there. You’re completely swamped: work, kids, relationships, the neverending to-do list. When you’re stressed, usually something has to give. 

And that “something” often ends up being self-care, including maintaining good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and scheduling dental check-ups tend to fall by the wayside. But, it’s important to remember that taking care of your oral health is a crucial part of your overall health.

It’s like a downward spiral. Stress leads to neglecting your teeth, leading to oral health problems, which just leads to more stress. Unfortunately, even a few days of poor oral hygiene habits create the perfect environment for plaque buildup, bad breath, and more serious dental problems. 

How to Manage Stress For Better Health

The connection between stress and dental health is real. The good news? There’s a lot you can do to manage stress and protect your smile.

Incorporating a few stress-busting techniques makes a real difference in both your physical and mental well-being. When you are feeling stressed, your body’s ability to fight infection is compromised, and you are more susceptible to painful sores and other health issues.

Even moderate aerobic activity helps reduce stress. Try to engage in physical activity, like jogging or swimming, to help lower stress hormones and improve your mood. Activities such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature are great options, as well.

Establishing an evening routine can help you wind down and prepare your body for quality sleep, a significant factor in stress management. Make sure to include good sleep hygiene habits as part of your routine:

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Limit screen time before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle.

These practices can help reduce stress levels and prevent teeth grinding, which often happens at night due to stress. If your jaw feels tight during the day, practice some relaxation techniques to ease muscle tension. Taking deep breaths, meditating, or finding a quiet space for a few moments can make a big difference.

How to Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene

A consistent and thorough oral hygiene routine is your first line of defense against a host of stress-induced dental issues. This is more important than ever, particularly when you’re feeling those stress levels spike. Here are the five crucial steps to master good oral hygiene:

  1. Brush your teeth twice daily using fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Floss daily to remove plaque and food from between your teeth.
  3. Clean your tongue to reduce odor-causing bacteria.
  4. Use a fluoride mouthwash for added protection.
  5. Visit your dentist every six months for checkups and professional cleanings.

Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes and flossing at least once a day goes a long way. These simple habits keep your teeth clean, prevent cavities, and can help keep gum disease at bay. 

You can also try using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria and improve your breath. Ask us about a water flosser, as well. We can help you understand its benefits and learn how to operate one as part of your morning and nighttime routine.  

Turn Over a New Leaf Today

While it’s easy to overlook the impact stress and dental health have on one another, the link is powerful. Understanding the ways stress manifests in your mouth puts you in a much better position to manage it and take proactive steps for your health.

By learning how to reduce stress through simple lifestyle changes and a great oral hygiene routine, you’ll be well on your way to a happier, healthier you. Remember, taking care of your oral health is not just about having a nice smile; it’s about taking care of your whole body.

If you live in the Langley or Surrey area, schedule an appointment with us if you notice any changes in your mouth or are experiencing jaw pain, especially if you suspect you’ve been grinding your teeth at night. Although stress is an inevitable part of life, we can help you manage it. 

Categories: Dental Health Tips

by Flagship Dental

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