Chronic stress can increase your oral health risks, which impacts on overall health.

3 minute read

It’s now widely understood that too much stress can impact on physical health as well as mental health, but what’s less well known is that stress also affects your oral health. This is due to stress contributing to risk factors for developing problems like tooth decay, gum disease and bruxism, as well as the intricate connections between oral health and other aspects of health.

There is firm evidence supporting the relationship between chronic stress and poor oral health. Two systematic study reviews from 2018 and 2022 confirm the link between high cortisol levels (a hormone that helps the body respond to stress) and the progression of advanced gum disease.

Another study involving over 2,400 participants of different ages found that people who said they had stressful lives also tended to report poorer oral health and more dental pain.

The good news is that stress, like oral health problems, can often be prevented by making positive changes where it counts and seeking support when needed. Read more about the connections between stress and oral health and steps you could try to lower these risks. If you need to talk to a dentist about your oral health, our friendly team at Kelmscott Dental are here to help.

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Teeth grinding and TMJ

stress-inducing-bruxism

For some people, stress or anxiety makes them involuntarily grind, clench or gnash their teeth, a condition known as bruxism. This puts pressure on the teeth and jaw joints, and may lead to teeth becoming painful, enamel wearing down faster than normal or even breaking. Strain on the jaw joints can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, which can cause headaches, earaches, neck pain and problems moving the jaw.

Bruxism often happens when you sleep and can go undiagnosed until it’s noticed by someone else or your dentist notices signs of damage or excess wear on teeth and gum tissues. Bruxism may be managed or prevented by avoiding stress and with treatments such as a night splint to prevent damage from grinding during sleep.

Poor oral care

stress-poor-oral-hygiene

People who regularly experience stress or anxiety often neglect proper oral hygiene routines and skip regular dentist visits. Regular dental visits are important for preventing and treating dental conditions like decay and gum disease.

It can be easy to fall out of the habit of twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, delay or avoid routine dental check-ups and cleans, even if you have symptoms of a problem that need treatment. Sometimes, anxiety about visiting the dentist can worsen an existing dental condition, causing a cycle of stress, shame and pain.

All of these behaviours can contribute to the development of oral health issues that can impact on overall health and wellbeing.

If it’s been longer than 12 months since you last saw a dentist, call our friendly team on 08 9495 7999 for advice or to schedule a visit to our welcoming dental clinic in Kelmscott.

If you are visiting us for the first time, ask about our No Gap or $350 new patient offer (valued at $516) for new patients with any health fund.

Poor eating habits

stress-affects-diet

Stress can impact a person’s diet in different ways, affecting their oral health. Some may feel they don’t have the time or motivation to prepare healthy meals, while others may forget or choose to skip meals, depriving their teeth of important nutrients like calcium and phosphorus that help to remineralise enamel, as well as vitamins that support oral health.

Stress may lead to unhealthy food choices that are high in sugar and carbs. This can increase the risk of decay and other dental diseases, especially in combination with poor oral hygiene and other bad habits.

Harmful coping habits

stress-can-encourage-harmful-coping-mechanisms

Stress can lead some people to indulge in unhealthy behaviours as coping mechanisms, such as smoking tobacco, drinking excess alcohol, and taking illegal drugs. These harmful habits significantly increase oral health risks, along with general health risks. According to the Oral Health Foundation, smoking and alcohol combined can raise a person’s oral cancer risk by up to 30 times.

Other effects of stress on oral health

Stress can also cause hormone changes in the body, which can increase the risk of developing conditions such as gum disease and mouth ulcers. Stress can also affect the body’s response to inflammation and cause slower healing after an injury or dental surgery. It’s the reason why we advise dental implant patients to avoid stress in the weeks following surgery.

Got a question about your oral health, speak to our team today.

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Tips to reduce stress and improve your oral health

tips-to-reduce-stress

The first step in trying to reduce or prevent stress is understanding what’s causing it. This could help you to avoid or better manage these situations, if they are in your control. Other steps may include:

  • Regular exercise: A minimum of 20 minutes of exercise, three times a week is recommended for stress management and prevention.
  • Relaxation: Taking time to relax each day is important, especially if it’s with people you love or combined with an activity that makes you happy. A daily 5-minute mindfulness medication exercise could also help to manage stress.
  • Healthy diet: Aim to follow a balanced diet that’s low in sugar and has plenty of vitamins and minerals to support good oral health and overall health.
  • Avoid bad habits: Try not to rely on substances like tobacco, alcohol and drugs that lead to oral health and general health problems.
  • Healthy sleep: Try to go to sleep at consistent times and to get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep each night so your body and mind will be well rested.
  • Talk to someone: There are lots of places to turn for support if you need it, from family and friends to professionals like your doctor or a therapist. You can also contact organisations like the National Mental Health Helpline on 1300 643 287 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 

Talk to a dentist in Kelmscott

If you’re due for a check-up or need to see a dentist for any other oral health concern, our team at Kelmscott Dental are understanding and non-judgemental, and we try to make our dental clinic a welcoming and supportive environment. We can also discuss options such as dental sedation if you have anxiety about treatments or need some extra help to feel relaxed during your visit.

To find out more or book an appointment, call us today on (08) 9495 7999 or book online. We also welcome patients from nearby suburbs including Armadale, Gosnells and more.

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References

  1. Botelho, J., Machado, V., Mascarenhas, P., Rua, J., Alves, R., Cavacas, M.A., Delgado, A. and João Mendes, J. (2018). Stress, salivary cortisol and periodontitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Archives of Oral Biology, [online] 96, pp.58–65. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2018.08.016.
  2. Aggarwal, Kanika, Jyoti Gupta, Rose Kanwaljeet Kaur, Dipika Bansal, and Ashish Jain. “Effect of anxiety and psychologic stress on periodontal health: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Quintessence International53, no. 2 (2022).
  3. Vasiliou A, Shankardass K, Nisenbaum R, Quiñonez C. Current stress and poor oral health. BMC Oral Health. 2016 Sep 2;16(1):88. doi: 10.1186/s12903-016-0284-y. PMID: 27590184; PMCID: PMC5010733.
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010733/
  5. https://www.dentalhealth.org/mouth-cancer-risk-factors
  6. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/stress