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You may be aware of the physical and emotional symptoms of stress such as headaches, stomachaches, and anxiety. But did you know that stress can also affect your oral health?1 It’s important to pinpoint the causes of your stress and know your body's early warning signs. It’s also smart to take steps to reduce your stress.
Oral Conditions Caused by Stress1
Stress can affect your oral health in a number of ways:
- Jaw issues, or disorders of the jaw joint or chewing muscles. These can cause pain around the ear or face.
- Teeth grinding, or bruxism. This can happen during the day, especially when you're concentrating, or at night while you sleep.
- Cracked teeth, which are often the result of teeth grinding or clenching your jaws. Cracked teeth can cause pain and fractures, requiring complex, expensive treatment to fix.
- Poor oral hygiene, caused by a lack of good brushing and flossing. If you're too busy or forget to keep up with your dental hygiene, you can wind up with tooth decay and gum disease.
- Cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1. Cold sores are often triggered by dental treatment, stress, and sunlight.
- Oral infections or sores, which may show up as ulcers, white lines, or white or red spots. These can be brought on by stress.
- Decreased immune response, caused by stress, which can lead to periodontal (gum) disease.
Reduce Your Symptoms
It's important to get to the root of the problem and figure out why you're stressed. Once you've pinpointed the causes, think about how to lower your stress levels. It’s ok to seek help, such as from a behavioral health specialist or your primary care physician. In the meantime, follow these steps to get relief for painful oral symptoms:
- Talk to your dentist about treatment options.
- Address teeth grinding by asking your dentist about getting a custom-fitted night guard to prevent tooth damage caused from grinding and clenching. The night guard also creates a cushion to remove stress on your aching muscles and joint tissues.
- Avoid hard or crunchy foods when you’re in pain. Do not chew on ice.
- Don't cope with tobacco and alcohol. These products can make your oral symptoms worse.
- Manage pain through gentle massage, physical therapy, or pain relief medications.
- Ask about prescription medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help inflammation of the jaw joint. Antiviral drugs may prevent cold sores.
- Avoid the sun or use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 to help reduce cold sores.
Talk to your health care provider about your symptoms.
1How to Keep Stress From Wrecking Your Mouth, http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-mouth-14/your-healthy-mouth/stress-teeth, October 7, 2019.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.