Top 5 Stress-Related Dental Problems
Most people know that stress can lead to headaches and abdominal pain. However, many people don’t realize the overall damage stress causes to their teeth, gums and, jaws. Dentists, in turn, noticed a drastic increase in stress-related dental problems after opening their offices after the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Keep on reading to discover how stress affects your overall oral health, and learn how to diagnose, treat and prevent dental problems it leads to.
1. Temporomandibular disorder
Your temporomandibular joint connects your jawbone to the temporal bones of your skull. It helps you open and close your mouth and enables you to move your lower jaw side to side, back and forward. Soreness and dysfunction that occur in this joint are called temporomandibular disorders (TMD). TMD typically leads to pain or tenderness, problems with opening your mouth, popping sounds when you try to open your mouth, and swelling on the side of the face.
Stress can worsen these symptoms. Besides, various experts report that habits often used to relieve stress like chewing gum, or resting chin on hands may also contribute to the development of TMD.
2. Gum disease
Gum disease typically develops due to bad dental hygiene. And experts suspect that stressed-out individuals are more prone to smoke, consume sugary foods and drinks, and neglect maintaining proper dental hygiene. All of these are among the most common risk factors for gum disease. Some studies have also found that stress hormones stimulate the development of bacteria that cause gum disease.
Reducing your stress may help improve your oral health. Consider trying various stress management practices like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
3. Tooth fractures
Practically all teeth have small grooves and pits due to daily wear and tear. These tiny openings in your teeth typically aren’t a problem by themselves. However, when you’re stressed, you may clench your jaws and subconsciously gnash your teeth. This mostly happens at night when you’re sleeping and can cause those small openings on your teeth’ surfaces to break and fracture.
If you suspect you might be grinding your teeth while sleeping, consult your dentist. He or she may recommend wearing a retainer or a dental night guard to put a barrier between your teeth and provide cushion to your jaw muscles.
Bruxism is a movement disorder that occurs in both adults and children and causes them to clench and grind their teeth. According to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, nearly 25% of people grind their teeth during the day and about 10% grind their teeth while sleeping.
If untreated, bruxism can eventually cause the surface of your enamel to become worn down, which makes your teeth look flattened and puts you at a higher risk of tooth decay. Bruxism also leads to headaches, earaches, and a tight jaw. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, reach out to the dental specialist for appropriate treatment.
5. Sensitive teeth
If you’re clenching your jaws and grinding your teeth, you can damage the thin outer layer of your teeth. Though tooth enamel is a very hard tissue, it still can eventually wear away, resulting in extreme sensitivity to cold, hot, sour, and sweet foods and drinks.
Tooth enamel does not grow back. So if your experience severe teeth sensitivity, you might want to consult a dental specialist about preventing additional enamel loss and strengthening your remaining enamel.
The bottom line
If you lead a stressful lifestyle and experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, avoid waiting until they get worse and consult a dental specialist. He or she will help you treat TMD, gum disease, sensitivity, and tooth fractures and will recommend how to prevent these problems from recurring.