Stress and Oral Issues

The Negative Effects of Stress on Your Oral Health

With excellent oral health, you can remain free of infection with a healthy smile. The healthiest smiles are the most beautiful smiles, so it’s important that you do everything you can to protect yours. Beyond your regular hygiene at home, regular visits to your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 family dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry can keep your oral health and dental health at their best.

Stress is something that we all experience. You probably already know that stress can influence your overall health. Did you know that stress also affects your oral health? Here’s what you need to know about stress and what it can do to your smile.

Stress Can Lead to Poor Oral Hygiene

Regular oral hygiene is your first line of defense against a range of dental problems including gum disease and tooth decay. Even skipping one day of brushing is damaging to your oral health.

Stress and oral hygiene are directly linked. The more stress you experience, the less likely you are to practice regular oral hygiene. And, if stress is combined with other factors like depression, you may be even less motivated to stick to your daily routine.


When you don’t brush, rinse, and floss regularly, your risk of cavities increases. Cavities are caused by bacteria that accumulate when you skip brushing. Skipping your routine infrequently isn’t a major concern, but when it becomes the norm, your dental health can suffer.

Gingivitis and Periodontitis

If you ignore normal oral hygiene practices for too long, you could develop gingivitis, a form of gum disease. Bacteria can accumulate below the gumline, causing irritation and inflammation. This can then lead to periodontitis. This is a more severe form of infection that can reach into the jawbone. Tooth loss, swelling, and repeat infections are common if left untreated.

Regular dental care can help prevent severe complications

Dealing with stress can help you to keep up with your oral hygiene. You should also visit your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 family dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry frequently to avoid serious complications. An examination every six months, along with regular hygiene, is the best way to protect your oral health. Detecting problems early can improve the prognosis after treatment planning.

Canker sores and mouth ulcers

Stress is hard to define clinically, and it can manifest in several ways. The research surrounding it is limited, with most focusing on the complications like dental health issues, mental health issues, and conditions like heart disease.

While the specific link between stress and dental health problems is vague, the outcomes are well understood. One of these outcomes is canker sores. Most dentists and doctors understand that stress can lead to ulcers and sores in the mouth.

Canker sores in patients with high stress levels

There’s a high correlation between stress and canker sores. A 2017 study published in Contemporary Clinical Dental found that anxiety and depression levels were consistently higher in patients suffering from canker sores.

Canker sores are small white lesions that can develop on the inner lips and walls of the mouth. They are painful, and while they typically go away on their own, they can be recurring in patients that suffer from chronic stress.

Severity of canker sores

Canker sores can be treated with antimicrobial rinsing. With regular oral hygiene, they are typically fully healed within a week. However, in severe cases, sores can last longer than two weeks and can grow to over 1cm in diameter. Severe cases are more painful and can interfere with speech, eating, and drinking. While many people have experienced canker sores once or twice, the recurring and severe cases can be debilitating for some patients. If stress is a factor, then healing and dealing with the problem can become even more complicated.

Stress management is key and is a long-term effort for most patients. Immediate treatment and relief can be guided by your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 family dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry.

Teeth grinding (Bruxism)

Bruxism is extremely common. Reports vary but it is generally accepted that between 8% and 31% of the general population suffers from this condition. Commonly referred to as teeth grinding, the condition can develop at any age. It’s common in young children as they get used to their teeth.

Stress can be a significant factor leading to teeth grinding. It can be chronic or acute. Some cases last a few weeks, while others can go on for months or years. Complications in adults can include broken and cracked teeth. Attrition is also an issue, with teeth slowly wearing down over time. As the teeth wear down, the dentin becomes exposed, causing sensitivity, pain, and an increased risk of cavities and breakage.

There’s no known cure for teeth grinding but there are ways to reduce the occurrence and complications of the condition.

How to stop teeth grinding when you’re stressed

There are several ways to relax the jaw to lessen teeth grinding and take away the stress that is caused.

Massaging the face and jaw can relax the muscles and help to alleviate pain or prevent teeth grinding temporarily. Your physician or family dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry can guide you with self-massaging techniques.

  • Sleep is key to managing stress as well as preventing teeth grinding. Adjusting your sleep schedule to get regular sleep can help to reduce grinding. It can also help to balance hormone levels and restore energy so that you feel less psychological stress.
  • If you chew gum frequently and grind your teeth, your family dentist may recommend that you avoid the habit. Chewing gum trains your jaw to register a full bite incorrectly, so it causes some people to clench even harder, leading to tooth damage and a tendency to grind, even when not chewing.
  • Specific jaw exercises can relax the jaw and reduce teeth grinding. Your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 family dental professional at Yorkshire Family Dentistry can train you in jaw exercises that reduce pain.

Appliances for teeth grinding

Special dental appliances, called mouth guards, can be used to prevent grinding in the most extreme cases. These can be worn infrequently during the day and while sleeping. Appliances can help to gently shift the position of teeth in the jaw. They also prevent occlusion (teeth coming together), so your teeth will be protected.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

The stress that causes bruxism could lead to a progression of symptoms. If untreated, you or someone in your family could develop a temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ as it’s commonly known.

TMJ is a disorder of the joint that controls the movement of your jaw.

Symptoms of TMJ

Symptoms can vary. In some cases, you may experience more than one at a time. These symptoms may come and go.

The most common include…

  • Tenderness and pain in your jaw.
  • Pain above your jaw around your ears (one or both sides).
  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint itself (one or both sides).
  • Aching and recurring facial pain.
  • Frequent locking and popping of your jaw.
  • Difficulty or pain when speaking or chewing.

When to see your dentist for TMJ pain

If you experience any of the symptoms described above, you can get a diagnosis and treatment from your family dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry. You should seek professional advice if the pain is persistent and severe. If you suffer from bruxism caused by stress or other issues, then TMJ pain could progress over time.

In some cases, the pain could pass and return later. You should still mention any past pain to your dentist when you’re having your next examination.

How is TMJ treated?

There are various approaches to treatment for TMJ. If stress is identified as a factor, your dentist may recommend stress reduction through physical exercise, therapy, or other activities. Becoming aware of the causes, such as stress and teeth grinding, could help you to reduce the frequency and intensity of TMJ pain.

Physical therapy provided by your dentist or a TMJ specialist is sometimes recommended. Appliances like those used for bruxism can also be used to manage and prevent TMJ pain. Because stress, bruxism, and TMJ are often associated, your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 dentist at Yorkshire Family Dentistry may design a treatment program to address all three.

In some cases, surgery is necessary to treat TMJ pain. Severe cases may require adjustments to the temporomandibular joint with an open or arthroscopic approach.

Effects of stress on your oral health and immune system

Your oral health is one of the most important aspects of your overall health. Stress affects your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and infection.

Cortisol and stress – Cushing’s Syndrome

Recent immunological research has found that stress leads to hormonal imbalance. The hormone cortisol is found in higher levels in patients who experience stress.

Cortisol is an essential hormone for your health, but when the levels are high, it can cause anxiety and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Consistent high levels of cortisol lead to a condition called Cushing’s Syndrome. Depression, irritability, headaches, infections, darkened skin, bone loss, muscle weakness, and cognitive difficulties are all associated with Cushing’s Syndrome.

Stress and your immune system

One of the most significant risks of stress is a weakened immune system. With lower immunity, you could be at higher risk of developing dental infections and other oral health problems. You could become more likely to fall ill to cold and flu. A weakened immune system can be devastating to your quality of life.

Dealing with stress not only protects your oral health but also helps to ensure your overall health so that you can live a full life and enjoy it with the people who matter to you.

Seeking effective care for stress-related oral health issues

If you have concerns about your oral and dental health, your 3212 HAMPTON HWY ,YORKTOWN, VA 23693 family dentist can offer advice and treatment. Stress leads to significant oral health issues. Understanding these issues and getting the right treatment can protect and improve your smile. The compassionate and experienced team at Yorkshire Family Dentistry is available to schedule your consultation. Call us at (757) 867-9341 or book your appointment online today.