In times of stress, it may be difficult to add your oral health to your list of things to remember, but is important to know how stress can affect your smile and oral health. Dr. Rafoth speaks to the effects stress can have on your teeth.
Immune System Breakdown
“Stress can directly cause immune system breakdown, which can be connected to deterioration in dental health,” says Dr. Rafoth. “Prolonged stress needs to be managed for your overall health.”
“We most commonly see canker sores (apthous ulcers) emerge in times of stress.” While canker sores are generally harmless in the long-term, they are painful and annoying distractions that may add to your frustration and stress. Over-the-counter numbing creams can offer minimal help. We have found that laser therapy has been more effective at reducing not only the pain of the ulcers, but also the length of time they persist, and even reduce the number of future outbreaks for patients.”
Clenching and Grinding
“Another common result of stress is tooth clenching or grinding (bruxism),” warns Dr. Rafoth. “This may lead to headaches, jaw pain, and tooth sensitivity. A dentist may be able to fit you with a mouth guard for sleeping that will prevent the teeth from wearing away at each other.”
Reduction of Saliva Production
“Stress also reduces the amount and the quality of protective saliva that can help prevent tooth decay or periodontal disease.” Even if your mouth isn’t feeling dry, keep an eye out for tooth sensitivity or swollen or painful gums.”
Changes in Diet
“When patients deal with chronic stress, they can sometimes change their diet or lifestyle to manage the stress,” explains Dr. Rafoth. “High-sugar foods or comfort foods are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates that increase the risk of tooth decay.”
Changes in Sleep
“Chronic stress can lead to insomnia or sleep pattern changes, and some patients cope with those changes by consuming more soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks. These drinks are highly acidic and have refined sugars, which dramatically increase the risk of tooth decay.” If you experience trouble sleeping, do your best not compensate by drinking these decay-encouraging energy-boosters. Seek the help of your doctor to improve your sleep performance.”
Use of Vices
“Alcohol and smoking are also stress relievers for some,” says Dr. Rafoth, “but they reduce saliva production and that can lead to trouble. In addition, tobacco is a major factor in the emergence of periodontal disease, and tobacco and alcohol use are significant risk factors for oral and pharyngeal cancers.”
Chris Rafoth is the owner of Lyons Creek Dental Care, providing medical dentistry, dental implants, and facial esthetics since 1998 for Shoreline and greater Seattle areas, as well as communities in King and Snohomish counties. Any questions or comments? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org today!