26 Dec Stress and Oral Health
While filled with holiday cheer and celebrations, the end of the year can also be a stressful time for many people. Believe it or not, stress can have a big impact on the overall health of your mouth. Many of us know about the effects of stress on our overall health, but at Hicks Dental Group in Prescott, we also want you to understand the connection between stress and oral health. Here are some ways that stress can affect your mouth:
The immune system under stress
When we experience stress, our immune systems are compromised, in part, because stress depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Stress also causes the hormones in the body to produce less saliva. And saliva contains important bacteria-fighting elements—so as saliva production decreases, its ability to fight off infections in the mouth diminishes. Infections in the mouth can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease, as well as increase your risk for things like cardiovascular disease and stroke. Decreased saliva can also lead to a chronically dry mouth, which allows plaque to accumulate.
Diet and stress
Stress also often negatively impacts the way that we eat, which in turn greatly affects our oral health. We all know sugar is bad for our teeth. But what you might not know is that highly processed foods that are high in sugar and fat are more likely to create an acidic environment in the mouth. That acidic environment creates an ideal situation for bacteria to grow. Acid can strip the enamel, which serves as a protective layer for the teeth, making your teeth more susceptible to bacteria. Eating foods rich in calcium and magnesium, especially during times of stress, is important to prevent this acidity from developing. Green leafy vegetables and bananas are great sources of these essential minerals.
Additional oral health concerns:
- Bruxism—or grinding your teeth in your sleep. Since you may not even be aware that your teeth and jaw are working overtime while you’re sleeping, symptoms to look for are headaches, unexplained facial pain, a sore jaw, neck aches, and earaches. If you are experiencing any of these, let us know. A mouthguard may be necessary, or we can discuss other ways to minimize damage.
- Mouth sores—one of the main causes of canker and cold sores is emotional stress.
- Gum disease (or worsening of existing gum disease)—stress can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to gum disease. A literature review that looked at studies conducted between 1990 and 2006 indicated a positive correlation between stress and psychological factors and gum disease.
The good news? Here at Hicks Dental Group in Prescott, we care about your overall health. And we understand that everyone experiences stress. Though it will never be completely eliminated, there are things you can do to manage the effects of stress on the mouth. When we are stressed, oral care might be one of the first things we let go of—so remember to make your dental hygiene a priority and continue to visit us for your routine visits twice a year. Prevention is always the best medicine!