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4 Ways Stress Can Affect Oral Health

added on: September 16, 2020

While stress can be caused by any number of things, we may all find ourselves more on-edge nowadays than usual, which is totally normal for both kids and parents alike. Many of us have experienced large life changes very quickly, and it may have us feeling overly stressed. But as we all know, stress isn’t good for us. It can increase our chance of experiencing a heart attack, it can lower our immune system, and, according to this New York Times article, affect our oral health. Your pediatric dentist in The Woodlands tends to agree. 

  • Chipped or Broken Teeth

One of the most common ways stress tends to affect oral health is through something that many of us may not even realize we’re doing. We’re talking about clenching and grinding our teeth. This habit often occurs during periods of high stress and is usually subconscious or happens while we’re sleeping. But even though we may not be aware of doing it, we can certainly notice the side effects of clenching and grinding. Constantly hitting or rubbing teeth against teeth can easily cause chipped or broken teeth. If this happens to your child, this damage will require treatment from your pediatric dentist in The Woodlands.  

  • Jaw Pain

Stress and clenching and grinding can also affect the jaw joint. Repeated pressure on your jaw joint as you clench down over and over again can result in pain, and sometimes it’s severe. Overuse of the jaw joint, also known as your TMJ or your temporomandibular joint, can tire out the muscles and cause pain. Over time, this overuse can cause TMJ disorder which is a painful condition that’s often paired with jaw popping, clicking, or even locking. 

  • Canker Sores

While there is no absolute, official cause of canker sores, research conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry suggests a possible correlation between stress and canker sore development. These painful little ulcers can be annoying and cause discomfort but they aren’t contagious. 

  • Gum Disease

You will often hear your pediatric dentist in The Woodlands talk about gum disease as it can affect both adults and children. While gum disease is typically linked to smoking or poor dental care, there’s another thing that recent studies say may increase the risk of developing gum disease that almost all of us have — stress. Gum disease is a serious oral health problem that, if not treated, can become a whole-body problem. In fact, gum disease has been linked to overall health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and some cancers.

Lower Stress, Lower Risk

Lowering your family’s stress levels can go a long way in keeping the ailments above at bay and protecting overall health. But that may be easier said than done. Stress is weird and it affects everyone differently and everyone has stress-reduction techniques that work for them. It’s important to find what works for you and your family. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

  • Get Enough Sleep. Our bodies need sleep, perhaps more so when we’re feeling stressed. Sleep helps our bodies recover, can keep our immune system functioning well, and lower stress. But when we’re stressed, sleep may not come easily. To help, limit your family’s exposure to blue light an hour before bed, listen to calming music or sounds, and follow a regular routine of waking up the same time every day.
  • Exercise Every Day. Go for a walk. Take a jog. Hop on a stationary bike. Practice yoga. Whatever you choose to do, make sure your family is getting some sort of exercise every day. Exercise has been proven to release endorphins which can decrease stress and keep us healthy. 
  • Breathe It Out. Something as simple as breathing can also decrease stress. Taking a few minutes every day to focus on your breath or to meditate can lower blood pressure and decrease stress. 

During stressful times, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and, well, stressed out. But finding a way to lower that stress is crucial to making sure your body and your mouth stays healthy. Try a few options and keep practicing. And as always, if your child does experience an oral health problem, call your pediatric dentist in The Woodlands to schedule an appointment.