5 Ways Stress Can Affect Dental Health

Fuquay Varina family dentist

It’s no secret that a stressful life is bad for your health – it can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, and over time, can increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. What you may not know is that stress can also be bad for your teeth and gums. Our Fuquay Varina dentist is sharing five dental health problems caused by stress.

Stress Can Lead to Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding and clenching, called bruxism, can often be triggered by stress and anxiety. While the occasional bout of clenching or grinding your teeth may not lead to anything beyond a sore jaw or headache, long term, untreated bruxism can lead to chronic pain in the neck and jaw as well as damage. Over time, grinding can wear down your teeth, damage the enamel, and cause breakage, and in the most severe cases, tooth loss.

If you notice you’re grinding and clenching your teeth more often, especially at night, speak with your dentist about being fitted for a mouth guard that will minimize damage and discomfort.

Stress Triggers TMJ Disorder

Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are the joints located below your ear to move your lower jaw. Grinding and clenching your teeth can also lead to TMJ disorder, causing stiffness and swelling in the joints. If you experience pain in the jaws, especially back toward the ears, along with clicking and popping sounds, you should discuss this issue with your dentist.

 Gum Disease Caused by Chronic Inflammation

Chronic stress causes your body to continually give off cortisol, and over time, excess cortisol can cause chronic inflammation in the body. In addition to this, stress can also weaken your immune system. These two issues work in tandem to allow harmful bacteria in your mouth to enter the bloodstream through inflamed or damaged gums. Keeping plaque at bay through frequent brushing and flossing as well as regular bi-annual dental checkups and teeth cleaning will help minimize your risk of gum disease and infection.

Stress Often Leads to Sugar Cravings

Our blogs often mention how damaging sugar can be to your teeth. It feeds the bacteria in your mouth, which produces an acidic reaction that wears away your enamel and causes tooth decay. When you’re stressed, you’re probably not thinking of how sugar is bad for your teeth. Instead, you may be more likely to reach for sugary foods that are a comfort or convenience foods like a muffin or high-sugar protein bar for breakfast or a snack. Stress snacking, emotional eating, or grabbing food on the go often leads to a diet high in sugar and your teeth and gums can pay the price.

Ignoring Dental Care

When you’re living a high-stress life, you’re busy, distracted, and under pressure. It’s easy to let things like getting regular dental checkups slide, and you may even forget to brush your teeth before bed or floss regularly. Additionally, stress can often lead to depression and anxiety, and these can both affect hygiene and self-care. Skipping dental health routines means you’re more likely to suffer tooth decay and gum disease, and without regular checkups, small problems get missed and can turn into serious issues.

Schedule a Dental Checkup Today

We understand that stress can make it seem like you simply don’t have time for anything in your life, but it is important to take an hour or two out of your day to get a professional checkup and cleaning. If you are struggling with any of the concerns we’ve listed – teeth grinding, sore jaws, or inflamed gums, be sure to bring it up at your appointment. To schedule an appointment, reach out to us at  919-552-2431 or fill out our contact form to get started.