How Stress Affects Your Oral Health
The effects of stress are not limited to your head. Indeed, mental health and physical health are not two separate entities, rather they are entirely interconnected. A decline in physical health is often accompanied by pain which makes it hard to think clearly and leads to anxiety and depression, and stress brought on from outside sources can lead to complications in parts of the body not normally associated with emotions.
Many people express their stress with a mindless physical tic, tapping their feet, strumming their fingers, that sort of thing. Those two examples are pretty harmless, but, unfortunately, many people also manifest their stress by grinding their teeth.
Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) is, obviously, bad for your teeth. Biceps, abs, and bulked-up shoulders get all the glory as far as being the image most people see first when they think about muscles, but by weight the strongest muscle in the human body is actually the masseter (jaw muscle). Your molars are capable of producing 200 pounds of force, so they can really do some damage when all that power is used on themselves.
Grinding will wear down your enamel (which can never be restored) and eventually result in chips or even complete breaks. It will also strain the joints that hold the jaw together, which often leads to pain, jaw tightness, earaches, and headaches.
This one is kind of cheating, because dentists don’t know for sure what exactly causes canker sores, which are small, painful, grey-blue ulcers that appear in the gums and other soft tissues inside the mouth.
A few factors have shown significant correlation with canker sores: age (people from 10 – 20 years old and more likely than anyone else to get canker sores), physical damage caused by braces, eating a lot of citrus, and a poor diet that lacks sufficient B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron.
But more than any of those factors, stress has shown to be the most common thread that connects canker sore sufferers. Stress is bad enough alone, and when it brings on sores that send up waves of sharp pain every time you try to snack on something, it’s awful enough to make you dismiss any notion that there is a fair and just karmic balance to life.
Poor Hygiene Habits
Stress can lead to depression, and one symptom of depression is the cessation of standard hygienic practices. You just don’t care anymore. Brushing and flossing are done rarely, if at all. Without everyday dental hygiene, plaque builds up, hardens into tartar, and fosters bacteria growth that damages teeth and infects the gums.
As we stated in the introduction to this article, it’s been shown in study after study that your mental state affects your physical state, including how effective your body is at fighting off and recovering from diseases.
There are many techniques used to treat gum disease, everything from deep cleaning to medications to surgery if necessary. But if stress is severe enough to fester into full-blown depression, these treatments will not be as effective as they would be if you had a more healthy and positive outlook on life.