What Stress Does to Your Teeth

woman holding head stressed

For far too many people, anxiety and stress have become just another part of day-to-day life. Stress can cause issues that range from the relatively minor (irritability and inability to get sufficient sleep) to the more serious, including panic attacks and cardiac issues.

Stress and anxiety can also take a heavy toll on your dental health. Unfortunately, you may not recognize many of these issues on your own. Stress can cause a variety of dental issues; here are some of the most common.

Tooth Grinding

Tooth grinding, or bruxism, can seriously damage your teeth, and you may not even know that you are doing in. While many people subconsciously grind their teeth during their waking hours, even greater numbers unknowingly grind them while sleeping. Obvious symptoms of nighttime bruxism include pain in the temples, jaw, or neckline; moderate to severe morning headaches; difficulty or pain in the mandible, or jaw joint, that interferes with talking or eating; and a clicking or other sound from the mandible when opening and closing your mouth. Bruxism can also cause damage to your teeth. Damage ranges from minor irregular wear on tooth surfaces to the more severe cracked or broken teeth. Much of this wear-related damage or cracking may go undetected until your dentist takes a look.

Acid Reflux

That pain you get in your stomach while under stress or while feeling anxious is partly caused by the production of excess stomach acid. This acid is corrosive and damaging to enamel tooth surfaces. It can creep up the esophagus and into your mouth, where it will come in contact with your teeth and gums – a process known as acid reflux. Although numerous issues can cause acid reflux, it is very commonly found in people suffering from stress and anxiety.

Ignoring Dental Care

Anxiety sufferers may ignore other health issues, including dental health, because they are too preoccupied with the cause of their stress. Many people also self-medicate their stress with sugary or unhealthy foods, which, when combined with a lack of dental care, can lead to serious dental issues.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a condition in which the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva, which is critical to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Although the cause of dry mouth may be as simple as not drinking enough water, dry mouth is also a very common symptom experienced by individuals suffering from stress and anxiety. Saliva is a key part in chewing and digestion, and it also plays an important role in dental health. An ample supply of saliva bathes the teeth and gums, and it washes off harmful bacteria and food particles that can damage teeth or encourage the development of cavities. Dry mouth can also lead to the development of a fungal infection known as thrush, as well as the development of a painful mouth condition known as burning mouth. Dry mouth can also make wearing dentures painful or even impossible.

If you are suffering from stress and anxiety, you may also be suffering from undiagnosed dental health issues. The team at McNeely Family Dentistry can help. We’re dedicated to providing compassionate, professional dental care to each and every member of your family. Contact us today for an appointment.