Does Stress Affect Oral Health?

Even though it has always been here somewhere and creeping around, stress has become an even bigger part of our lives during the last two years. People learnt how to live with stress and are trying hard to find ways to deal with it. There is a reason stress is often called “the silent killer” – because it does just that – it can impact every part of our body, both physical and mental health, and oral health is no exception.

Covid And Stress

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on people’s mental health – did you know that nearly half of Canadians consider their stress levels are worse than they were before the pandemic? For good reason, of course – a lot of people lost their jobs, couldn’t see their family members, or have even lost someone during the pandemic. Only being socially distanced from someone is a good enough reason to feel depressed, anxious or stressed, but adding the economic and emotional losses to that equation definitely makes things even harder.

Can Stress Impact Oral Health?

Oh yeah, more than you might think. chronic stress can impact your immune system and cause gum disease and inflammation. What makes things even worse is that severe gum disease can even lead to infections that can then lead to heart disease, or worse! So, it’s safe to say maintaining good oral health does not only help the people around you by preventing bad breath, but it also helps you and your overall health.

You may have also noticed yourself fidgeting with your fingers, shaking your leg, or biting your nails when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. For the same reason, some people clench their jaws or grind their teeth. Now, grinding your teeth maybe doesn’t sound that serious, but it can cause serious damage.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is when you unconsciously or habitually tighten your jaw and rub your teeth against one another. Even though it mostly happens in your sleep, it is possible to experience it during the day as well. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is mostly linked to stress, sleep disorders, and drug abuse, but there is some proof it might also be caused by an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters. Some antidepressants, crooked teeth or an abnormal bite can also cause teeth grinding to happen.

People are often not aware of it until they notice other symptoms, which is why regular visits to a dentist can benefit you. Your dentist is the best person to see if something strange or new is happening to your teeth and give you solutions on time before a simple thing turns into a nightmare.

What Can Teeth Grinding Cause?

Not a lot of people are even aware they clench their jaws and grind their teeth, but they do notice the symptoms after a while, jaw and face pain usually being the first. In some cases, teeth grinding wears the teeth down to stumps and bridges, crowns, root canals, or even dentures may be needed. Not only can bruxism cause wearing down the tooth enamel, but it can lead to teeth being in such bad condition, they just fall out.

What Does Teeth Grinding cause:

  • Fractured (cracked) Teeth
  • Abfractions – the loss of tooth structure where the tooth and gum come together
  • Jaw Pain
  • Attrition –  the loss of tooth structure or tissue caused by tooth-on-tooth contact

Signs of Bruxism:

  • Sore Jaw Muscles
  • Headaches near the jaw point
  • Heightened sensitivity

Aside from damaging your teeth, severe grinding can also cause TMD, and even alter the appearance of your face. What is TMD? Its full name is Temporomandibular Disorder and it affects the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints (the 2 joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull), and the nerves linked to chronic facial pain.

The symptoms of TMD

  • Jaw discomfort or soreness (most common in the morning)
  • Headaches and earaches
  • Pain spreading behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, or back
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw
  • Locking of the jaw and limited mouth motion

Solutions For Teeth Grinding

Most of the time, serious treatment is not necessary and bruxism can be dealt with with a few behavioural changes – like learning how to rest your tongue, teeth and lips. But, in some situations, dental help might be needed.

Your dentist might recommend getting a mouthguard that is designed to keep your teeth separated and avoid the damage caused by grinding and clenching. They are often made of hard acrylic and fit over your teeth. In other cases, for example, when teeth have large fillings or the root canal has been treated, a dentist might suggest reshaping your tooth and using crowns to repair the damage.

Getting Rid Of Stress

If stress is the only reason you’re dealing with teeth grinding, you may be able to prevent it by learning how to relax. Yes, that is often easier said than done- but you have to try!

Meditating and yoga might work great for you, and getting that zen will benefit you in more ways than just getting rid of the grinding!

If that doesn’t work, try talking to a licensed therapist. After all, they are professionals in their field and will have proper tactics to offer you.

How Do I Stop Grinding My Teeth – The Takeaway

Considering stress is the number one cause of bruxism, your go-to option should be – to relax. Of course, relaxing is not easy to do, especially in these times. That’s why your best option is to have regular visits to your dentist, at least twice a year. They can see everything you can’t and warn you just in time to prevent damage.