April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s no surprise that the month of April can provoke stress as Tax Day nears. Studies have shown that stress can have harmful effects on our health, but did you know that our mouths can also be affected by stress? Your dentist can detect oral symptoms of stress during regular dental examinations and cleanings. A few dental problems that can develop as a result of stress in our lives include:
Dry mouth. During stressful times, your body may not produce enough saliva, leading to a dry mouth. It can occur as a direct result of stress. In addition, certain medications that help alleviate stress and anxiety may also cause dry mouth.
Tooth grinding. Also known as bruxism, tooth grinding can happen in your sleep when you’re not even aware of your actions – so you could be developing a bad habit you don’t even know about! Symptoms that may accompany grinding include headaches, unexplained facial pain, a sore jaw, neck aches and earaches. If you think you may be gnashing your teeth in the night, discuss it with your dentist. He or she may recommend a mouthguard or give you tips on how to minimize damage.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. Also known as TMJ or TMD, it is thought to be directly caused by stress. This condition affects your temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull, located near your ears) and the muscles involved in the movement of your jaw and neck. It occurs with repeatedly tightening face and jaw muscles, which often occurs when you are clenching of your teeth. Ask your dentist if you experience any symptoms like jaw pain, clicking or flattened tips of teeth due to grinding.
Canker sores can be brought on by a higher stress level and are often triggered as a result of traumatic experiences like biting the inside of your cheek or vigorous brushing of teeth.
Poor oral health habits can be exacerbated by stress. People who are stressed are less likely to maintain a good oral health routine, which can lead to tooth decay.
Whatever dental problems you may have, don’t forget to mention them to your dentist. Even if you’ve self-diagnosed, your dentist may be able to provide additional insight into the cause, treatment and prevention of dental problems resulting from stress in the future.