Stress and Oral Health

Mental stress can affect our bodies. For some, the effects of constant stress, anxiety or depression can affect oral health, in several ways.

Bruxism

This refers to forceful grinding or clenching of the teeth, often unconsciously, during the day or at night during sleep. Many people who brux their teeth may not be aware that they are doing so. However, those who sleep with them may be able to hear their grinding. The exact cause of bruxism is uncertain but mental stress is considered one of the factors contributing to this habit.

Unconscious clenching or grinding can lead to problems like:

  • Cracked teeth
  • Teeth sensitivity due to wear of the teeth
  • Headaches, or tiredness of the jaws on waking
  • Flattened or chipped appearance of the teeth

As there may be many causes for bruxism , a holistic approach is needed to treat this condition. Some people may find that wearing an occlusal splint or night guard may help to reduce the clenching and consequent wear on the teeth.

Dry Mouth

Dryness of the mouth can be caused by stress. More often, it may be caused by medications taken to treat stress, anxiety or depression. Reduction of saliva in the mouth can have many consequences such as:

  • Reduced taste and hence reduced appetite
  • Increased tooth decay because of the lack of protection offered by saliva
  • Difficulty in wearing dentures because of the lack of lubrication offered by saliva
  • Increased plaque accumulation and consequent increased gum disease
  • Greater wear of the teeth and subsequent sensitivity

Reduced Resistance and Poor Hygiene

Even periods of exam stress have been found to be associated with increased infections of the mouth — for example around impacted or emerging wisdom teeth. People under stress are less likely to eat well, sleep well or be interested in daily hygiene practices; hence their general resistance to infections fall. The mouth is a place where infections can easily occur.

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