Elevated stress levels can have a measurable impact on oral health as well as the rest of our body. It’s important therefore to recognise the warning signs and take appropriate action.
Here are some common ways that stress and anxiety can impact your teeth:
Tooth Grinding & TMJ Disorder
If you find yourself experiencing tension, stiffness and popping of the jaw, you may be experiencing TMJ Disorder (Temporomandibuar Joint Dysfunction).
Severe Tooth grinding (Bruxing) can occur as you sleep so you wake up with strong pain on the side of your face from jaw muscle spasm.
TMJ is also linked to clenching and grinding of the teeth during the day which can cause tooth abrasion.
Visit your dentist for a consultation if you notice symptoms such as:
• Pain or tension in the side of your face
• Increased tooth sensitivity (this may be due to the enamel wearing off from grinding)
• The tips of your teeth appearing flat
Neglecting Dental Care
When we’re stressed it’s easy to fall out of routine and neglect basic healthcare. This commonly includes forgetting or avoiding brushing and flossing.
It’s also important to not put off regular appointments with your dentist. If you experience stress or anxiety relating to dental visits, mention this at your next visit. Your dentist will ensure your experience is as calm and stress-free as possible.
Unhealthy Eating Habits and Gum disease
It’s incredibly common to want to reach for junk food or sugary snacks when stressed. While these foods can certainly be enjoyed in moderation, it’s best to avoid making a habit out of reaching for them in times of stress. The negative effects of sugar on our teeth has been well-researched, and the consensus is to keep such foods to a minimum.
Stress can increase our risk of conditions such as periodontal gum disease. It is also not uncommon for students who are busy with exams and skip a healthy diet and proper cleaning
to develop acute gum disease.
Nail Biting & Canker Sores
Stress can cause us to participate in anxious habits such as:
1. Nail biting:
This habit usually develops in early childhood and can arise in adulthood at times of anxiety and/or nervousness. Those who bite their nails may also Brux their teeth at night wearing away enamel or causing the teeth to chip or crack.
2. Cheek biting:
This can lead to the formation of ulcers, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Cheek biting can also occur accidentally and may not be a cause for concern. However, if you experience regular accidental cheek biting, check in with your dentist.
If you suspect that stress has been affecting your teeth, don’t panic! Contact your dentist and they can suggest some ways to decrease stress and help get your oral hygiene back on track.
For more advice on how to care for your teeth, get in touch
with Dr Tim Hart at Chatswood Dental Care on (02) 9412 2295. With regular check-ups, the impact of stress on your teeth can be minimised, leading to better oral health and general health in the long run.