Stress and oral health

Published on 07/04/2023

With April being Stress Awareness Month, the team at Leigh Dental Centre are looking at the role stress plays in oral health.

Ongoing stress can lead to a range of mental and physical issues, including obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and, of course, mental health issues such as depression. 

Many scientific papers on the subject from between 1990 and 2006 were reviewed.

In 57% of the papers a clear link was found between stress and periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is an advanced stage of gum disease whereby the gum and bone is being eroded and the patient is at significant risk of teeth becoming loose.

Gum Disease

Gum Disease

While that might not sound as serious as some of the conditions above, gum disease can lead to teeth becoming loose, potential tooth loss and also an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems and more.

Oral health issues can further increase your stress levels: bleeding gums, bad breath, jaw pain and other associated problems remain in the forefront of a person’s mind, which in turn exacerbates other problems!

Gum disease might be the most worrying oral health issue to potentially come from stress, but there are also short-term problems such as cold sores, oral infections and aching jaws which need to be addressed.

Soft tissue in the mouth tends to be an indicator of general health. The presence and recurrence of ulcers can be a sign of stress impacting upon your oral health.

Tackling oral health issues might not eliminate stress, but it can help prevent the problem from escalating and also far more serious issues from occurring in the future.

Stress and Bad Dental Hygiene

Stress and Bad Dental Hygiene

People suffering from stress also have a higher tendency to do things that are suboptimal for their oral health. A person with extreme stress might skip brushing their teeth, or skip flossing, or at best give their teeth a cursory brush. A person who is stressed might grind their teeth, leading to wear on the enamel and teeth sensitivity. They might snack on unhealthy treats, especially those high in sugar.

Any of these bad habits alone will have a detrimental effect on oral health, but combined these increase the impact.

Stress and Oral Health – How to Tackle Problems

A lack of sleep leads to tiredness, the day starts badly, perhaps oral hygiene slides and the sufferer also indulges in coffee and cigarettes to kick themselves into action. Tackling oral health is one step towards halting the progress of further stress and also ensuring that, as the stress subsides, it has not caused long term damage.

Staying on top of oral health is also relatively straightforward. It starts with good oral hygiene. The things that should be done – brushing regularly, flossing, using interdental brushes – and those that should be avoided, such as excess sugar, smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, and teeth grinding.

The next step is to maintain regular check-ups with a dentist and professional treatments with a hygienist. Seeing a dentist can either put your mind at rest that there are no oral health issues or help correct any that do exist. A dentist can also spot early signs of gum issues or other problems which, if left untreated, will become more problematic and heighten stress.

Healthy Habits

Healthy Habits

Stress is a horrible condition, especially when it is ongoing and seemingly without an obvious, solvable cause. It is debilitating. It is continually there in the background; it stops the body and brain functioning as they should and so can lead to a whole host of health issues. Oral health is just one of those issues, however it is one where there is real danger of serious long term health problems occurring if it leads to untreated gum disease.

But fortunately, in most cases, it is easy to control. Maintain your dental hygiene, be aware that what you eat, drink and smoke has an impact and get to your dentist and hygienist as often as recommended.

If you would like further advice on reducing the effects of stress on your oral health, do not hesitate to ask at your next appointment. Contact us today, on 01702 472929, to get booked in.