Stress and Oral Health – Common Problems

Stress and Oral Health – Common Problems
Posted on 05/02/2017

Most people don’t associate stress with dental problems. While it can cause a number of health issues and significantly influence your physical and mental health, few people consider the connection between stress and their mouth. Most don’t realize that when they’re stressed or anxious they can damage their teeth.


Bruxism is the medical/dental name used to describe grinding and clenching teeth due to stress. Most people don’t even realize they are doing it when they’re more focused on what causes them stress. Almost everyone grinds their teeth when they’re angry or frustrated and this usually doesn’t cause much trouble. However, continuous and persistent bruxism can eventually wear the teeth down and cause jaw problems. This can also cause jaw-aches, earaches, and headaches, which will only add to your stress.

Stress is one of the most common causes of bruxism, and it usually happens during sleep to people with an abnormal bite. If you wake up every morning with a sore jaw and a headache, there’s a chance that you’ve been grinding your teeth in your sleep. If you experience a sore jaw and tender teeth often, there’s a chance you’re clenching them when stressed out. The best way to address this is to visit us and we’ll examine your teeth for signs of wear. An appliance called a nightguard or splint can be easily made that will help. I’ve been wearing one of these (not the same one) for more than thirty years.

Canker Sores

Dentists and physicians have noticed that there’s a connection between canker sores and physical or emotional stress, especially in women. Some people get canker sores because they chew on their lips or bite the insides of their cheeks when they are stressed. These nervous habits can lead to significant outbreaks of these sores, especially if you do it often and don’t allow the sore to heal completely.

Canker sores (also called aphthous ulcers) aren’t contagious and they go away in about a week, but they are quite painful. They can be especially painful when aggravated by spicy or acidy foods or hot drinks. If you experience canker sores regularly, you should let us take a look and help you work on a solution to avoid them. Over-the-counter medications are available.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth or Zerostomia can cause a number of problems. It can encourage bacterial infections because there’s not enough saliva present in the mouth to break down food particles and counteract harmful bacteria. Dry mouth is also a common cause of bad breath. It can happen for a number of reasons like poor oral hygiene, breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, and certain medications. And, it’s often caused by stress and anxiety. When you experience intense stress and anxiety, your body becomes more vulnerable to acid reflux. This acid can damage your salivary glands and lead to a lower saliva production.

Dry mouth is also a known side-effect of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. If you experience dry mouth often, you should consult with our office to come up with a treatment plan that can help. Most dentists will recommend changes in lifestyle and diet to address this problem.

Tooth Decay

Most of the problems mentioned above can cause tooth decay. Bruxism can weaken and fracture the teeth – we see this a lot. Dry mouth can lead to more bacteria and more aggressive plaque and this can lead to out-of-control decay – we make dentures for these folks. Stress and oral health are connected in more ways than you think.

Occasional stress is unavoidable and normal, but if you experience stress and anxiety on a regular basis, keep a close eye on your dental health – not to mention your overall health.

Columbus Family Dental Care

  • Columbus Family Dental Care - 1645 Holt Road, Columbus, OH 43228 Phone: 614-878-1397 Fax: 614-878-1336

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