How Stress Affects Dental Health

Saturday, July 9th, 2011, 1:29 pm

Stress can cause lots of physical symptoms ranging from headaches to hives and it can also cause problems with your oral health. Stress can show up in your mouth in the form of canker sores, cold sores, teeth grinding and even gum disease. Here’s how to recognize and deal with some of these stress related problems.

Canker sores are small ulcers that appear inside the mouth – sometimes singly other times in groups. They may appear to have a white or gray colored base that is bordered in red. Stress and fatigue can increase the risk of canker sores but they are not contagious. They will go away in about a week to 10 days. If they are very sore you can use over-the-counter topical anesthetics. It is best to avoid salty or spicy foods and highly acidic foods so you don’t irritate the canker sore.

Cold sores are also called fever blisters. They are actually caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. Emotional upset, stress or even sunburn can trigger an outbreak. They will heal on their own in about a week. Prescription treatments are available.

Stressful situations can make you clench your teeth or grind them together. Many people grind their teeth at night while sleeping and don’t realize they are doing it. Bruxism is the technical term for teeth grinding and it can lead to cracking and breaking of teeth, wearing down of the teeth and can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ or jaw joint). See your dentist about your bruxism as soon as possible. Sleeping with a specially made orthotic device can protect your teeth and your temporomandibular joint from damage.

Stress can also cause an increase in dental plaque which can lead to serious gum disease. Regular brushing, flossing and dental hygiene visits are necessary during stressful times.

We all experience stress at one time or another. Finding a healthy way to cope with this stress such as exercise, journal writing, meditation or any other positive mechanism can help keep your stress levels from causing physical symptoms and long term damage to your health. Please contact our Toccoa, Georgia office at 706-886-9439 today to schedule your appointment.

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Category: gum disease, oral health, TMJ

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