We all know stress takes a toll on the body – you can feel the tension in your shoulders and may be more prone to illness because stress weakens the immune system. But did you know that stress affects oral health too? Here are a few not-so-good effects it can have on your mouth:
Clenching or Grinding
Stress can cause tooth-grinding or constant jaw clenching, which can both lead to tooth damage. Stress causes many people to grind their teeth in their sleep, so they may not even notice until they wake up with a sore jaw. Over time it wears down the teeth, and it could potentially crack or fracture them. It can lead to muscle pain not only in your jaw, but your face, ears, and head!
TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder)
This refers to a variety of conditions that affect jaw joints, muscles, and facial nerves. TMD can occur when the jaw twists improperly during movement. People with TMD may experience pain around the ear, headaches, and neck aches, sore jaw muscles, and pain when chewing, biting, or yawning. It can even create difficulty opening and closing the mouth, cause popping noises when opening your mouth, and lead to sensitive teeth.
Stress weakens the immune system and makes the body more prone to infections and sores in general. The mouth is no exception. Canker sores are small ulcers or lesions located in the mouth. They usually appear as a red lesion with a white/yellow center on the inside of the cheeks or lips, the tongue, the upper surface of the mouth or the base of the gums. Symptoms can include a burning sensation, pain, inflammation, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. They are not contagious and will usually go away in a week or two, but they’re not fun in the mean time.
Long-term stress can even increase your chances of gum disease. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol weakens the immune systems and creates good conditions for bacteria invade the gums. Research is revealing a strong link between stress and gum disease. Symptoms include bleeding gums, swollen gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. Left untreated, gum disease can even lead to tooth loss.