You already know that stress can be physically harmful. It can raise blood pressure and cause severe headaches, among other things. What’s often overlooked is that stress can also take a toll on your mouth. If you’re feeling the pressure lately, pay extra attention to your oral health. Here are some things to look for:
It’s not uncommon for people under a lot of tension to unknowingly develop bruxism, better known as teeth grinding or clenching. Over an extended period of time, grinding can cause problems such as jaw pain, earache, headache, and, of course, worn down teeth. Normally, your teeth rarely touch during the day. If you catch yourself clenching or holding your teeth together, relax your face and jaw muscles and let your teeth apart. Think – ‘lips together, teeth apart.’ Stopping to do this several times a day can help break your grinding or clenching habit. If you’re a night-grinder, talk to your dentist. He or she may recommend a mouth guard to reduce wear and tear on teeth.
There’s evidence that stress and depression harm your immune system, making it easier for infection to develop and stick around. That can mean canker sores and/or a cold sore outbreak if you’ve had them in the past and are already infected with the virus. If mouth sores are a recurring problem for you, talk to your dentist about medication that can shorten their duration.
Too much stress can also lead to bad oral health habits like smoking, drinking and neglecting your daily brushing and flossing. If you’ve had a lot of extra anxiety lately, try to keep up with your oral health routine. It will serve you well when your stress levels return to normal.
We know there’s not always an easy way to reduce stress, but eating healthy, exercising regularly and spending time with loved ones are all good places to start.