How does stress affect your oral health?

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When you are under stress, your whole body can be impacted and your oral health is no exception.

Being under too much stress can contribute to many oral health problems with your mouth, teeth and gums including sores, bruxism, halitosis and gum disease.

Halitosis

Approximately 50% of the population suffer from halitosis (or bad breath). When you are suffering from stress, your body will react by using the sympathetic nervous system as a form of protection. This triggers the fight or flight response mechanism which allows you to react quickly to the situation. When this happens, the mouth produces a lower amount of saliva and the mouth becomes dry, leading to bad breath.

This happens because the odorous gases created by bacteria in the mouth, which are usually suppressed by saliva, are free to be released into the air. Additionally, bacteria are more likely to stick to the surfaces of a dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water, chewing sugar-free gum and rinsing with a non-alcohol mouthwash can all help to minimise halitosis.

Gum Disease

There are a few different factors that link stress and the development of gum disease. When the body is under stress, it produces large amounts of a hormone called cortisol, which is an anti-inflammatory agent. When cortisol is produced in the gums, it stimulates cells to produce more proteins and increases inflammation which can lead to the progression of gum disease.

Another factor that can increase the likelihood of developing gum disease whilst under stress is the fact you tend to follow a poor oral health routine and adopt unhealthy lifestyle habits. Not cleaning your teeth and mouth sufficiently will lead to the build-up of tartar which in turn, will cause gum disease. Luckily, if gum disease is caught in its early stages, the effects are reversible by adopting a thorough oral hygiene routine and having regular trips to your dentist.

Mouth ulcers and sores

Stress suppresses the immune system, meaning you will be more susceptible to infections. Whilst under stress you can develop mouth ulcers, which are harmless but can be very painful when eating, drinking or talking. You can also develop canker sores which are white spots found on the soft tissues of the mouth. These are also harmless and will usually go away within 1-2 weeks on their own but if you notice that you have had them longer, speak to your dentist who may be able to prescribe a topical treatment.

Bruxism

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a condition that many people suffer from unknowingly. It is common to grind your teeth during your sleep when under stress. This can cause damage to your teeth and their enamel as well as give you headaches and jaw ache.

If you notice yourself grinding your teeth during the day, it is important to seek advice from your dentist. They may be able to provide you with a night guard to reduce the risk of damage to your teeth. During the day, try to keep your mouth slightly apart when you’re not eating. Reducing your levels of stress will help you overcome the habit of grinding your teeth.

How can you minimise stress and its effects on your oral health?

  • Limit your consumption of sugary food and drink, alcohol and caffeine
  • Give up smoking
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Develop a thorough oral hygiene routine
  • Speak to your dentist and have regular check-ups

If you are suffering from stress and are worried about the effects it is having on your oral health, contact The Dentist at Liberty Place here or call us on 0121 633 9535.

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