Stress, we all seem to encounter it at one time or another. It can cause headaches, stomach problems, put us ‘on edge’ and cause blood pressure to soar.
But did you know that too much stress could also harm your mouth, teeth and gums?
Stress can manifest itself in:
Mouth ulcers and cold sores
Bruxism – the clenching and grinding of teeth
Poor oral hygiene and unhealthy eating routines
New periodontal (gum) disease or the worsening of an existing condition
Stress and teeth sensitivity
Let’s take a close look at these common problems.
Mouth ulcers (aphthous ulcers) are small ulcers with a white or greyish base and bordered in red. They appear inside the mouth, sometimes in pairs or even higher numbers.
Although there’s disagreement what causes them – it could be immune system problems, bacteria or viruses – experts do think that stress, as well as fatigue and allergies, can increase the risk of getting them.
Most mouth ulcers disappear in a week to 10 days and are not contagious. For relief from the irritation, try over-the-counter topical gels and reduce irritation. Avoid spicy, hot foods or foods with a high acid content, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. They often start with a tingling sensation where the sore is going to appear. Emotional upset can trigger an outbreak and so can a raised temperature or sunburn.
Like mouth ulcers, cold sores often heal on their own in a week or so. Treatment is available, including over-the-counter anti-viral creams. It is essential to start treatment as soon as you notice the cold sore developing.
Stress may also make you clench and grind your teeth. It can happen during the day or at night, and often unconsciously. If you already clench and grind your teeth, stress could make the habit worse. Grinding your teeth can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) located in front of the ear meets the lower jaw meet.
Seek advice from your dentist or doctor about what can be done for the clenching and grinding. We may recommend a night guard, worn while you sleep.
Poor oral hygiene
When stress gets out of control, it can affect our mental health and the way we care for ourselves. Missing out on flossing and brushing will cause our oral health to decline. Gum disease and tooth decay can occur when the daily routine of care is disrupted.
Some studies suggest that anxiety can result in a spike of dental plaque, even if the stress level is short-term. Plaque increases the risk of gum disease.
Remember, eating a balanced diet, seeing your dentist regularly and good oral hygiene all help to reduce your risks of periodontal disease.
And don’t forget, if you have any problems with your teeth, the clinical staff at North Street Dental can offer advice. Call now to arrange a consultation.