The Effects of Stress on Oral Health

Posted on 24 September 2009 by admin

New York City is a great place to live, work, and play.  As a leading dentist in one of the world’s busiest cities, I know all too well the stress that my patients undergo.  If stress is allowed to plague the body long enough it can cause severe damage to an individual’s physical and mental health.  As a society, the dangers that stress poses to the body are fairly well known.  Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the effects that chronic stress has on oral health.

     Chronic stress can have many significant effects on oral health.  For instance, emotional stress is believed to be related to the practice of tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, jaw and facial pain, and headaches.  Increased tension in the muscles of the face are a major side effect of stress.  This tension can cause an individual to inadvertently grind upper and lower teeth during their sleep or even while awake.  This can lead to sensitive teeth, cracked or chipped teeth, or a change in their bite.  Bruxism is usually treated with a mouthguard that is worn at night to stop grinding, however, when brought on as a result of stress, patients are encouraged to treat this symptom by focusing on reducing stressful triggers and relaxation.

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Stress is also known to significantly affect the immune system, leaving the victim more susceptible to infections.  Oral health suffers greatly, as the risk of periodontal disease almost doubles.  The gum tissue cannot fight off the ever-present bacteria lurking within the mouth and is also more vulnerable to mouth sores, dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome, and TMJ disorder. 

     Finally, its has been found that someone under a great deal of emotional stress is more likely to develop certain coping habits to help reduce anxiety, but in the end have negative effects on oral health.  Such habits include ignoring proper oral hygiene practices, engaging in desctructive behaviors such as smoking and alcohol abuse, and eating foods full of sugar. 

     If you are experiencing any of the following and lead a stressful lifestyle, you may be diagnosed with chronic stress:

  • Upset Stomach
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger

     If you feel you have chronic stress, it is very important to speak with your dentist about ways you can avoid causing harm to your oral health.  Your dentist will likely advise a variety of methods to control chronic stress, including exercise, healthy eating habits, stress management and relaxation techniques, adequate rest, and relaxing hobbies. 

 Daniell Mishaan, D.M.D. is a Cosmetic and Restorative dentist in the Garment District in midtown Manhattan. He serves patients from all over New York City and is open Sundays for all patients including emergencies.

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