Stress and Your Oral Health

The doctors here at Laurelhurst Dentistry understand the types of stress many of their patients find themselves under on a daily basis. That’s why we offer a wide range of anxiety-free dental services in our relaxing and inviting Portland office. Considering how much stress you deal with at work and home, the last thing you need is to feel apprehensive about a trip to the dentist.

Too much stress can cause you to experience a variety of symptoms, including stomachache, headache, and a general feeling of always being on edge; plus such serious long-term health issues as high blood pressure and trouble sleeping. Excessive stress can also cause a number of oral health problems.

The types of problems you can experience due to stress include:

• Mouth sores, including both canker and cold sores
• Grinding your teeth
• Unhealthy eating habits and poor oral hygiene
• Gum disease

So how can you prevent these oral health problems?

Mouth Sores

A small grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores form in the mouth, either individually or in groups. While health experts aren’t entirely sure what causes canker sores to appear (theories range from bacteria, viruses, or problems with the immune system), they do suspect that stress, fatigue, and allergies can increase your risk of developing them. In case you’re wondering if you caught them from somewhere don’t worry, canker sores are not contagious.

The majority of canker sores generally heal within a week to 10 days. If you experience severe discomfort from canker sores, try using an over-the-counter topical anesthetic. To keep from irritating your canker sores, try not to eat any spicy or hot food, or foods that are highly acidic, such as pineapples, tomatoes, or bananas.

Teeth Grinding

Stress can also make you clench and grind your teeth, often subconsciously during either the day or night. If you already suffer from teeth grinding, stress could make your unfortunate habit even worse. Excessive teeth grinding can lead to a number of problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is located where the skull and lower jaw meet in front of the ear.

If you experience frequently bouts of teeth grinding, ask any of the doctors at our office about treatment options that might be right for you. You may need to use a night guard while you sleep, or some other device used to help you stop grinding your teeth.

Poor Oral Health

Experiencing high levels of stress can also affect your mood and cause you to skip brushing and flossing daily. Your overall oral health suffers when you fail to take care of your mouth. If you already experience problems with gum disease, neglecting to brush and floss can make your problems worse than what they already are. If you enjoy relatively good oral health, failing to practice good oral hygiene can lead to gum disease and an increased risk of developing cavities.

Feeling the pressures of stress can also cause you to start practicing unhealthy eating habits, such as eating a lot of sugary foods or drinks. These types of habits increase your risk of developing tooth decay and a variety of other long-term health problems.

To avoid falling into these unhealthy eating habits, just remind yourself of the importance of practicing good dental hygiene. Starting or boosting an exercise program can also help you relieve stress and feel more energized.

Gum Disease

Stress can cause an increase of dental plaque to develop in your mouth, even if the periods of high stress are relatively brief, according to a recent study. Stress can also lead to depression, which could cause you to ignore your oral health. When plaque builds up in the mouth, you have an increased risk of developing gum disease, which leads to tooth loss. Making sure you don’t neglect the health of your teeth during stressful times is imperative to maintaining your oral health.

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