Stress has long been related to poor oral hygiene, but did you know that stress actually affects your whole body? When you are stressed, your body releases chemicals that trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response. This physical reaction directs blood away from internal organs and towards the extremities, which can help keep you alive in dangerous situations. However, when this happens over long periods of time, it can be harmful to your health – especially your oral health.
When the body is under stressful conditions, it reacts by releasing cortisol and other hormones into the bloodstream. If this occurs on a regular basis, it can increase your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. Plaque buildup is more prone to occur with elevated hormone levels in the body. This is because plaque contains bacteria that release toxins into the gums, making them red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. Additionally, the acids released by these bacteria eat away at tooth enamel and cause cavities to develop. Over time, this can lead to significant structural damage to the teeth and may even make tooth extraction necessary.
When we experience high levels of stress, our body responds by releasing certain hormones and chemicals. This response is a natural mechanism designed to ready the body to respond to danger or perceived threats. Unfortunately, this natural mechanism can also negatively impact the health of the teeth and gums.
When the body is stressed, it diverts blood flow away from non-essential organs such as the mouth and towards vital organs such as the heart and lungs. This means that the gums aren’t getting enough blood flow to stay healthy and strong. Without healthy blood flow in the tissues of the mouth, the gums can become inflamed, painful, easily infected, and eventually detach from the teeth entirely.
When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases hormones into your bloodstream that make you feel more alert and energized. This is known as the fight-or-flight response.
Short-term stress can have some positive effects on oral health. For example, it can increase your adrenaline production, which may give you the extra energy you need to power through a tough workout or a difficult project at work. However, long-term stress has a negative impact on your oral health. When your fight-or-flight response goes on for too long, it can lead to a number of issues in your body that can impact your teeth.
Inflamed gums are often one of the first signs of stress-related damage to your mouth. That’s because when you’re experiencing prolonged periods of stress, your levels of cortisol start to increase. This hormone triggers the inflammatory response in your gums. As inflammation increases, you may notice bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth, along with reddened, tender gum tissues. Inflammation also increases your risk of gum disease by weakening your immune system’s ability to ward off infection.
Chronic stress can also increase your risk of developing bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, which can lead to tooth damage and the need for restorative dental treatments like dental crowns or root canal treatment. Teeth grinding also places extra pressure on teeth and jaw joints, which can cause headaches and even pain in the ears.
If you’re concerned about how chronic stress is affecting your smile, talk to your dentist about your concerns. They may recommend treatments that will help improve your oral and overall health, such as topical fluoride treatments and mouthguards to prevent you from grinding your teeth at night.
Although stress may not always be avoidable, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. Regular visits to the dentist can help you stay on top of any developing issues and prevent them before they can progress into major concerns. Your dentist can also recommend other ways to reduce stress in your life if needed. This may be as simple as practicing yoga or meditation, finding enjoyable activities that help you relax, or taking time for hobbies each day.
To learn more about our dental services or to schedule a consultation with our dentist at our practice located at 2711 S Parker Rd., Aurora, CO 80014, call H&M Family Dentistry at (303) 353-9611. We will be happy to assist you further.