Springfield, MO – Stress is a fact of life. We often cannot escape overwhelming feelings when it comes to work, traveling, lack of time and sleep, diet, or relationships. But these feelings can take a toll on us in many ways. Stress affects our mental health and our physical health, including the mouth, gums, and teeth.
Dr. Marc Barnett agrees that too much stress can lead to depression and anxiety. “When people are depressed, they often do not take care of themselves, as they should. This can lead to many problems pertaining to the mouth,” says Dr. Barnett, an Ozark dentist who specializes in smile makeovers in the Springfield area.
Stress and Gum Disease
“Being depressed or under extreme stress may cause you to skip brushing, flossing, and rinsing. This is a slippery slope to serious troubles like gum disease, bad breath, and mouth sores,” says Dr. Tracy Davis, our Branson dental expert in family dentistry.
If you don’t take care of your mouth, your teeth and overall oral health can suffer. If you already have gum disease, skipping daily dental hygiene can only make it worse. If your mouth is healthy, falling short on these tasks can lead to gum disease or make cavities more likely. Long-term stress affects the immune system, which increases vulnerability to infections such as gum disease. Gum disease starts as plaque. When too much plaque accumulates on your teeth, it hardens and turns into tartar. Tartar attaches to teeth so firmly that it can only be removed by professional cleanings. If not removed, tarter builds up and causes gum disease. Stress can even increase the occurrence of bleeding gums or gingivitis, which can progress to serious gum disease.
Stress Leads to Unhealthy Eating Habits
When you are feeling stressed, you may also take on unhealthy eating habits. Consuming sugary foods and drinks may feel good at the time, but this put you at a greater risk for tooth decay and other problems. When combined with good oral hygiene and professional dental care, eating the right foods will keep your smile healthy and strong enough for treatment.
Decreases in the Immune System
Because stress affects the immune system, it is often linked to mouth sores, such as canker sores and cold sores. Canker sores are small, white and red ulcers, which appear inside the mouth. Cold sores can be triggered by stress emotional anxiety. There are over-the-counter anesthetics you can use to relieve canker sores and prescription medicines for cold sores.
“Stress often makes people clench their jaw and grind their teeth, says our local Ozark preventative dental care authority Dr. Nick Matthews. “This can happen during the day or unknowingly at night.“ Grinding your teeth can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. Problems with TMJ can even cause headaches, facial pains and neck soreness. To reduce the negative effects of teeth grinding, we may recommend a nighttime mouth guard or another appliance.
Proper Oral Hygiene
Although we often cannot escape the pangs of stress, many oral health problems are preventable with personal care and proper dental hygiene. “We must remember to take care of our bodies and ourselves, including our mouths and our mental health, says Dr. Kelly Barnett, the first female dentist to practice in the Springfield area.
Eating a balanced diet and seeing the experts at Excel Dental will help keep your mouth in good health. Don’t forget to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. If you are feeling overly stressed, take the time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.