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How Stress Affects Your Oral Health

Stress is a common part of life, and most of us know the implications it can have on our mental and physical health. Trouble sleeping, feeling trapped or looking at the world in a more negative way are all repercussions of stress in our life. But did you know that stress can also impact oral health in a negative way?

Here are six oral health conditions commonly caused by stress and how to treat each of them.

1. Gum Disease

Your body produces immune cells to protect against bacteria, but when the body is under stress, this delicate balance is thrown Not producing enough immune cells to protect against bacteria can play a significant role in the development of gum (periodontal) disease. Furthermore, the severity of gum disease can actually increase based on the amount of stress you are experiencing.

Healthy gums will look firm and pink, although they may contain other pigments depending on your ethnic origin. Any change in its natural colour is a sign of poor health.

Sore, tender, bleeding gums are also a sign of gum disease. These symptoms generally indicate gingivitis, which is an early stage of gum disease. This stage is reversible, but if proper oral care is not taken, it will advance to severe stages of gum disease known as periodontitis, which can cause recession and bone/tooth loss.

How to treat gum disease: Brush twice a day with an electric toothbrush along the gum line and clean in between the teeth with floss or interdental brushes. Visit a hygienist who will be able to do an assessment of your gum health and provide treatment and advice.

2. Bad Breath

There is a link between stress and gum disease, which can influence bad breath. Stress can also cause you to have a poor or irregular oral hygiene routine, as well as a dry mouth due to dehydration and breathing through the mouth. In stressful times, you may be too busy to eat, drink or breathe normally.

How to treat bad breath: Consistently brushing twice a day, cleaning in-between the teeth and using a tongue cleaner/scraper can help. Staying hydrated and using sugar free gum or mints are a great way to stay fresh throughout the day. Be sure to make regular visits to your hygienist who will clean your teeth and give you a tailored oral hygiene routine.

3. Clenching and Grinding (Bruxism)

Stressed out individuals may find themselves grinding their teeth a lot, either during the day or while sleeping, which can result in jaw pain, headaches and earache. Over time you may damage your teeth causing them to chip, break and become sensitive.

How to treat bruxism: Visit your dentist who can assess your jaw and make you an appliance known as a nightguard for you to use while you sleep.

4. Ulcers

The exact cause of ulcers is unknown. It could be a problem with the immune system or due to bacteria or viruses. Stress and tissue injury are the most common causes of the simple variety. Nutritional deficiencies in iron and B vitamins can also cause ulcers. Adjust your diet or take supplements, but always seek advice from a doctor or dietitian.

How to treat ulcers: Most ulcers will disappear within 10 days, but anything that does not heal within 3 weeks should be reviewed by a dental professional to rule out any potential malignancy. Avoid spicy, salty, acidic and rough foods. You can rinse with hot salt water and there are various ulcer gels on the market. Try a ‘sodium lauryl sulphate free’ toothpaste.

5. Cold Sores

When under stress, our immune system suffers. This can trigger the dormant herpes simplex type 1 virus, which causes fluid-filled blisters and are extremely contagious. They often show up on or around the lip area. They often heal in a week or so.

How to treat cold sores: There is no cure for cold sores but there are various treatments available to ease discomfort and promote healing, such as antiviral creams. Avoid touching the area as cold sores are highly contagious and can spread to other parts of the body.

6. Decay and Erosion

Increased snacking, a high sugar diet, and alcohol consumption coupled with poor oral hygiene as a result of stress can lead to dental decay and erosion. Smoking in stressful times can increase your risk of gum disease as well as oral cancer.

How to treat decay and erosion: Keep all sugars and acids to mealtimes only and try not to have more that 3 to 4 acid attacks per day. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and clean between teeth with floss or interdental brushes. Keep alcohol to under 14 units per week and seek advice from a dental professional or doctor about how to quit smoking.

Stress is a big factor in many people’s lives, so it’s important to get it under control if you don’t want it to impact your oral health. Contact London Hygienist today for an appointment if you suffer from any of the above conditions.


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