How Can Stress Affect Your Oral Health?

stressed out man looking at papers

How Can Stress Affect Your Oral Health?

Nowadays, stress is an unavoidable part of life. From meeting work deadlines to paying bills, we encounter many sources of stress on a daily basis. While it’s well known that prolonged stress can take a toll on your mental health, many people don’t realize that stress can affect their teeth and gums too. Here’s how stress affects your oral health, and what you can do about it. 

Seven Effects Stress Can Have on Your Oral Health

1: Bruxism

Pent-up stress needs an outlet, and many people unconsciously grind or clench their teeth when they feel anxious or stressed. Bruxism (teeth grinding) can cause some serious damage, because it puts extreme pressure on your teeth and jaw. This can lead to sensitivity from worn enamel, jaw pain, and headaches, as well as cracked teeth or broken dental restorations. 

2: TMJ Disorders

Stress—especially when accompanied by bruxism—can cause or aggravate TMJ disorders. Symptoms include jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, jaw stiffness, and headaches. If the pain radiates downward, TMJ disorders can also cause toothaches on the side of the head with the affected joint. 

3: Poor Oral Hygiene

Stress also tends to change people’s daily habits—taking time to brush and floss can seem like a chore and get neglected. But even skipping one day of brushing and flossing your teeth can have significant consequences

It only takes 48 hours for plaque to harden into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning. Plus, poor oral hygiene increases the risk of cavities, gum disease, and other serious dental issues. 

4: Gum Disease

Plaque and tartar irritate your gums, causing inflammation that leads to a chronic infection called gum disease. When left untreated, gum disease can spread infections to the roots of the teeth, resulting in tooth decay, loose teeth, and even tooth loss. If your gums are red, tender, swollen, receding, or bleed easily, you are most likely suffering from gum disease

5: Mouth Sores

Stress weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses like herpes simplex, which causes cold sores. Stress can also trigger painful ulcers called canker sores, and make them worse. 

6: Dry Mouth

High amounts of stress can reduce saliva flow, leading to a condition called dry mouth (xerostomia). Dry mouth increases the risk of cavities and gum disease by allowing plaque to build up on your teeth. Your body needs saliva to flush bacteria and food particles from your mouth. It also neutralizes the acids that cause enamel erosion and cavities. 

7: Tooth Damage and Infections

Anxiety and stress often trigger chewing habits that are bad for your teeth. For instance, biting your nails or chewing on objects like pens introduces harmful bacteria and can lead to infections. Plus, chewing on any hard object—even ice cubes—can cause teeth and restorations like crowns to chip or crack. 

Managing Stress Can Protect Your Oral Health

Here are a few tips to reduce stress for a healthier mouth:

  • Relieve stress with deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, or physical activity.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss every day—no matter what—to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  • Eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep. 

Compassionate Dentist in Sun Lakes, Arizona

One way you can reduce the effects of stress on your mouth is to keep up with your dental visits. The team at Dr. Saba and Associates can help you keep your mouth clean and healthy. We can also help you deal with stress-induced dental issues like bruxism, dry mouth, and more. Call our office at 480-895-2111 to make an appointment today. 


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (9/5/2023). Photo by Nicola Barts on Pexels