The link between stress and oral health
Have you ever experienced a dream in which all your teeth fell out? It’s a common recurring nightmare for many people. While there is much debate about the interpretation of this dream, its sufferers can attest that it delivers a hefty dose of anxiety.
Studies published in the Journal of Periodontology reveal that prolonged stress and anxiety can be detrimental to your oral health. Elevated levels of cortisol, one of the hormones responsible for the flight-or-fight response in humans, may be the culprit. Researchers speculate excessive cortisol in the body causes harm to teeth and gums by diminishing your immune response, allowing the progression of gum disease.
Another theory hypothesizes humans under stress are less diligent in their wellness efforts. Regular brushing and flossing fall by the wayside. Harmful coping habits including increased nicotine use, sugar intake and drug consumption cause further oral damage.
Loose teeth, bad breath and bleeding gums are signs of advanced periodontal disease and indicate you need to visit your dentist. TMJ joint disorders, teeth grinding, canker sores, dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome and viral infections called lichen planus are other oral disorders linked to stress.
Reducing stress increases your chances of maintaining a healthy mouth. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep and consistent practice of relaxation techniques will help you manage anxiety.
Deep breathing, meditation and listening to calming music are a few simple ways to decompress. Socializing with friends is another great coping mechanism. Even better, surround yourself with funny friends or engage in a laugh-inducing activity such as watching a comedy. Laughter lowers cortisol levels and increases the production of endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals, in the body. Biannual visits to your dentist provide one more opportunity to seek support.
You’ll rest easier when you put these healthy habits into practice.
Find out more about the link between stress and oral health here.