Research indicates that psychological stress contributes to poor oral health systematically in combination with other chronic diseases.
- Stress releases a cortisol hormone that makes us indulge in unhealthy habits.
- Clenching of jaws is quite common among people who have high-stressed jobs.
- Seek orthodontic treatment when stressed.
By Daphne Clarance: Stress can have a huge impact not just on your physical health but on your dental hygiene as well. Research indicates that psychological stress contributes to poor oral health systematically in combination with other chronic diseases.
When a person is under stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol that increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream. This hormone could also curb functions that would be harmful in a fight-or-flight situation.
“Stress is something that all of us react to differently. Cortisol makes us indulge in habits which are unhealthy. These can have damaging habits on our teeth,” Dr Amruta Dash, Implantologist, Periodontist, Cosmetic/Aesthetic Dentist, Ivory Smiles Dental Clinic, Bengaluru told indiatoday.in.
LACK OF SELF-CARE
During stressful times, self-care becomes a challenge. “People begin to indulge in mind-boosting foods like carbohydrates and sugar. All that can lead to plaque build-up and decay. It could also lead to gum issues like periodontitis, which is loosening of gums,” said Dr Dash.
DRY MOUTH OR XEROSTOMIA
Stress can also lead to dry mouth or xerostomia due to reduced saliva production. “Saliva is important because it acts as a buffer in removing a lot of food particles. It also contains enzymes which help in remineralisation of the teeth,” she added.
In case there’s decay, it can remineralise or fight against the decay. This can also lead to a higher form of plaque buildup. Overconsumption of alcohol and tobacco can lead to dry mouth as well and, in turn, lead to gum disease issues and decay.
CLENCHING OF JAWS OR BRUXISM
Clenching of the jaws is quite common among people who have high-stressed jobs. “Many people clench their jaw when stressed. This can activate the muscles and it can lead to stress in our temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can lead to stress and pain around the jaw and ears,” said Dr Dash.
You can also experience difficulty when you’re opening and closing your mouth, called bruxism.
GRINDING OF TEETH
Many people grind their teeth to deviate their minds from a stressful situation. This can cause a significant “wear and sensitivity of teeth.”
“Increase in cortisol levels can trigger a protein which can cause inflammation or most likely lead to gingivitis or periodontitis,” suggested Dr Dash.
Stress may also result in ulcers. Usually, topical medication works best to combat it.
How to maintain dental hygiene when you’re stressed?
“Bring down your stress by doing yoga and meditation etc. Contact your dentist to schedule a tooth cleaning appointment. In case you have a clenching problem like the TMJ, then a night guard (a transparent tray) could be helpful,” advised Dr Dash.
If you have misaligned teeth, then you can seek orthodontic treatment like braces to correct the alignment. “Well-aligned teeth can reduce the stress on your teeth,” she added.
Brushing and flossing regularly and using water floss or water picks to keep your mouth clean. “See your dentist every six months,” suggested Dr Dash.