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The links between stress and poor oral health

As you will have seen on our social media posts it was recently National Stress Awareness Day, so it seems apt that we explain how high-stress levels can impact your oral health. Recent UK statistics show that 85% of adults are experiencing stress regularly, and 39% admit they feel too stressed in their day-to-day lives- this shows that the majority of us are affected by stress, so it’s important to know how it can affect oral health.

What causes stress?

In a recent survey conducted by ForthWithLife, the most common cause of stress was found to be money, followed by work, health concerns and failure to get enough sleep. When you get stressed, your adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol, which helps your body’s fight-or-flight instinct in a crisis. In addition to this, cortisol regulates how carbohydrates, fats and proteins are absorbed, keeps inflammation down, regulates blood pressure and increases your blood sugar. If your body keeps producing cortisol due to extended periods of stress, the hormone can shut down bodily processes such as the digestive, reproductive and immune systems, so it’s really important for your health to try and reduce your levels of stress.

How can stress affect oral health?

The most common oral symptom of high-stress levels is teeth clenching, or bruxism. This commonly occurs during the night, so it’s difficult to know if you’re actually being affected by this or not! A short-term side effect of bruxism is headaches, and if the issue is left untreated your teeth can be permanently damaged, so if you’re feeling stressed it’s important to visit your dentist to check if this is affecting you. Although bruxism is the most common stress-related complaint, it is far from the only one- stress can also cause:

  • Gum disease– Stress can lower your immune system and increase your risk for infection in the mouth.
  • Dry mouth Dry mouth is both a side effect of stress as well as the medicines used to treat stress and depression. The mouth’s first line of defence against bacteria is saliva, and without it there is an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease and infection.
  • Ulcers or Canker sores (white spots found on the soft tissue of the mouth) are harmless but can be painful.
  • Tooth Decay-  A neglected oral health routine and unhealthy lifestyle choices resulting from stress- as well as conditions such as dry mouth- increase your risk of tooth decay.

If you are clenching or grinding we may recommend the use of a night appliance which is worn at night and will help to minimise the effects of the grinding and may actually improve the quality of your sleep.

If you are concerned that you have stress-related bruxism, visit us at London Holistic Dental Centre or call 020 7487 5221 to book a dental health check which will include an inspection of your mouth and jaw.