When you consider the physical manifestations of stress, you may think of headaches, muscle aches and upset stomachs. There's one area, though, that you may not realize can also take a beating from tension — your mouth. Stress can impact your teeth in many ways, and staying aware of these potential pitfalls can help you protect them.
1. Poor Diet Leading to Cavities
When you are stressed, do you load up on soda or reach for sugar-laden snacks? You are not alone. Many people cope with stress through emotional eating, and they often grab sugary foods that give them a temporary high to feel better.
If you continue this behavior, however, you can leave your teeth vulnerable to cavities. Too much sugar can cause tooth decay. Plaque builds on your teeth, which can degrade your enamel and result in cavities.
2. Grinding Your Teeth
When you feel stressed, you may clench your jaw and grind your teeth. Teeth grinding is called bruxism, and it's a physical manifestation of your stress. Bruxism can occur when you are awake or asleep. It causes long-term issues for your mouth, including:
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Wear and damage to the teeth
- Receding gums
It can also impact other parts of your body, causing jaw pain or earaches.
3. Higher Risk of Gum Disease
People with emotional stress, such as work problems or relationship trouble, can be more likely to develop periodontal disease. The issue may begin as inflamed gums, and later they begin to bleed. If left untreated, gum disease can even lead to heart disease.
4. Persistent Dry Mouth
When your body doesn't produce enough saliva, you can get dry mouth. You may experience dry mouth right before a stressful situation, like a job interview, or it may be a consistent problem when you are under long-term stress. This can be an issue since saliva helps to wash away food particles and fight germs that can cause bad breath and tooth decay. A lack of saliva can lead to dental issues later.
5. Not Brushing or Cleaning Your Teeth
When you feel stressed, your regular routines might go out the window. You may stop doing many of the small things that keep you healthy because you forget or feel like you don't have time. Too often, oral care tops that list. Make an effort to continue to clean your teeth even when you feel stressed and would prefer to go right to bed or wake up late and need to dash out of the house to make it to work on time.
Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash protect your teeth against decay, which can build up during times of stress. Following a routine also can lessen your stress because you feel more in control of your life.
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