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How Chronic Stress Affects Your Oral Health

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Life is full of stress of all kinds for everyone, from job and financial problems to accidents and family health crises. The three years of the pandemic have increased the stress by magnitudes, whether not because of not being able to socialize with friends or to buy things we thought would always be available.

Unless you have perfected your oral health care regimen, challenges like cavities, periodontal disease, and teeth that fall out may have added to normal stress. But what may not be fully appreciated is that chronic stress of all kinds, including mental health, can impact your dental health.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, two-third of people with clinical depression reported toothaches and half of those rated their oral health as fair to poor. The reasons for this range from unhealthy diets, lack of discipline to brush twice daily and floss once, and a tendency not to have a dental exam the recommended two times a year. Small cavities can become so serious even in six months that the entire tooth needs to be extracted.

Stress has Many Effects on the Body

Stress of all kinds has an effect  on the body, including dental health. It drives up the level of the hormone cortisol, which weakens the immune system, so periodontal bacteria can find a welcoming home. Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can dry up saliva, which normally fights oral bacteria. Smoking also dries the mouth and often the habit gets worse under stress.

Stress often leads to unconsciously grinding teeth while you sleep, known as bruxism, which can damage the crowns of teeth. These need to be repaired and a personalized nightguard created by Dr. Louie to prevent this from happening again.

Increased Tension Affects TMJ

Stress can cause tension in your jaw and dislocation of the TMJ, the set of hinges on both sides of the mouth that connect the lower jaw to the skull. You can feel these by placing your fingers just in front of your lower earlobes and opening and closing your mouth. The symptoms can be difficulties in even doing that or a popping sound when you do. Many suffering from TMJ Disorder also have soreness around the face, neck, or shoulders.

Cold Sores

Canker sores are mouth ulcers that can be due to a deficiency of vitamin B complex and any kind of stress. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. This can be dormant until triggered by stress and these sores appear as lesions on the lips. Other oral infections can appear as red or white spots or white lines are usually due to stress, smoking, and too many acidic beverages (such as sodas) and foods (especially citrus).

If you have not had a full dental examination in the past year, contact our Los Angeles dentist and team today.