Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life, but too much stress can have a negative impact on oral health. When you experience stress or anxiety, your body responds by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This increase in hormones prompts the “fight or flight” response in your body. This stress response can be a helpful reaction when faced with an immediate danger — it prepares you to deal with the stressful situation by making your heart race and increasing your alertness. However, if stress is sustained for long periods of time, the effects on your mind and body can be harmful. For example, if your body is constantly releasing these hormones in response to daily stressors, it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. You may also find that you’re more susceptible to gum disease if you experience chronic stress because your immune system is not as strong as it should be. When your immune system is weak, it is harder for your body to protect itself from infection. Your gums are particularly vulnerable to infection because your gum tissues are much thinner and more delicate than your other oral tissues. This means that bacteria can easily penetrate your gums and cause an infection, which can lead to pain, inflammation, and even tooth loss.
The connection between stress and gum health goes beyond physical symptoms. When you’re suffering from stress, you may notice that your breath smells more unpleasant than usual. This is because stress increases your risk of developing oral health issues such as dry mouth, which is caused by a decrease in the production of saliva. Saliva is important for protecting your teeth from harmful bacteria that can cause cavities. It also helps to neutralize acids and prevent tooth erosion. Without enough saliva, your mouth is at a greater risk of developing infections and decay.
Additionally, stress can also cause teeth grinding and clenching. Teeth grinding can occur during the day while you are asleep at night – if you wake up with jaw pain in the morning, it could be a sign that you grind your teeth at night. Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to wear while you sleep that will help protect your teeth from damage and prevent you from waking up during the night due to pain and tenderness in your jaw joints.
The causes of stress are infinite, but some of the most common stress factors are work, school, family, finances, and personal relationships. Poor nutrition can also cause stress, as it directly impacts the body’s immune system and ability to relieve stress.
So how does poor nutrition influence oral health? Consider that stress can weaken your immune system, allowing bacteria in the mouth to flourish unchecked and cause gum disease from lack of good oral hygiene. Stress can also cause people to neglect their oral hygiene routine or not perform proper cleanings. In addition, people under stress tend to chew on fingernails or other objects that can cause damage to the teeth and jaw. If your diet is lacking in important nutrients like vitamins C and D, B vitamins, calcium, and iron, then your body will be more susceptible to infection and disease. This can cause inflammation in the body and poor wound healing as well.
Maintaining a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help boost the immune system against a weakened state caused by stress. Studies show that foods high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, avocados, beans, and nuts, can reduce stress and protect against plaque buildup. Foods like dark chocolate have also been shown to reduce stress, so go ahead and indulge in a small square when you’re feeling frazzled! Other foods that are high in calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, broccoli, tofu, sardines, almonds, oranges, eggs, and oysters.
To find out more about the dental services offered at our dental practice, call (801)-923-1011 or schedule an online consultation. You can also visit us at 1838 N 1075 W #100, Farmington, UT 84025, USA.