6 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Oral Health

  • man with hand on jaw
    The Effect of Stress on Your Oral Health
    Long-term stress can hurt your health. However, it doesn't affect just your physical and emotional health. It can be bad for your teeth and mouth, too. Keep in mind these six stress-related conditions that can affect your oral health—and ways to minimize or prevent them altogether. 
  • Serene man sleeping in bed in the morning
    1. Grinding Your Teeth
    If you grind your teeth, you probably do it while you sleep. It's a common oral health problem. It can cause headaches, a sore jaw, and damage to your teeth. Severe teeth grinding can cause loose teeth or even broken or lost teeth. Stress and anxiety are a major cause of teeth grinding. Meditation, counseling and exercise are some ways to reduce the stress that causes teeth grinding. Your dentist can also make you a tooth guard to wear at night. 
  • Man With Fingers on Painful Jaw
    2. TMJ Disorder
    TMJ stands for temporomandibular joints. These are the joints that you use to move your lower jaw. They are located just below your ear. Swelling or stiffness in these joints can cause a TMJ disorder. Symptoms can include pain, clicking and popping. Stress is a major cause of TMJ problems. For instance, stress can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth. Your dentist may suggest a soft diet, meditation, or an anti-anxiety medication. 
  • woman looking at face in mirror
    3. Canker Sores
    If you are like most people, you have suffered through occasional attacks of these painful and annoying mouth ulcers. Triggers include vitamin B deficiency and any type of mouth injury or irritation. Several studies now show that stress is another big trigger for canker sores. You may be able to reduce canker sores by reducing stress. If you still get a canker, your doctor or dentist may prescribe a gel or cream to relieve the pain
  • dentist showing patient model of teeth
    4. Gum Disease
    Stress makes it harder for your body to fight off infections. Gum disease is an infection of your gums. It can cause loose teeth, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Stress can also contribute to gum disease if it causes you to grind your teeth, clench your jaw, or smoke cigarettes. If you have severe gum disease, you may need to see a dental specialist, called a periodontist. Your treatment may include stress reduction.  
  • dry-mouth
    5. Burning Mouth
    Burning mouth syndrome is a dry, hot and burning feeling in your mouth. Many things can cause this. Stress, anxiety and depression may be part of the problem. Dry mouth syndrome is more common in women after menopause, so hormone changes may also be involved. Treatment for dry mouth syndrome can include stress counseling and antidepressant medicine. Stress-related smoking and drinking can make burning mouth worse. 
  • Worried Woman
    6. Nail Biting
    Nail biting is a stress-related habit that can be harmful to your oral health and your overall health. Nail biting can move your teeth out of position. It can also damage your teeth. Adding the germs from your fingernails to the germs in your mouth can lead to mouth infections. You can even spread warts from your hands to your mouth. Viruses and bacteria that get picked up on your hands can spread to the rest of your body. Find better ways to reduce stress, or ask your doctor for help. 
  • Overhead view of woman reading
    Managing Stress
    Learning how to reduce stress helps you live a healthier life overall. Here are a few ways: identify what stresses you (write them down); prioritize your responsibilities at home and work; get at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep every night; exercise—every day if possible; and talk about your problems with someone you trust. Seek professional counseling if you find it hard to manage the stress in your life. 
6 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Oral Health

About The Author

  1. How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx
  2. Teeth Grinding. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding
  3. TMJ. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/tmj]
  4. Canker Sores. Massachusetts Dental Society. https://www.massdental.org/cankersores.aspx
  5. Gum Disease Risk Factors. American Academy of Periodontology, Gum Disease Risk Factors. http://www.perio.org/consumer/risk-factors
  6. International Dental Health Foundation, Burning mouth syndrome. https://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/sundry/burning-mouth-syndrome
  7. Today’s Dentist. http://todaysdentist.org/nail-biting-2/
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 5
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