We all know how stress can cause all kinds of physical issues, from high blood pressure to tight shoulders and poor sleep. But did you know that stress and anxiety affects your dental health? Our Toronto dentist explains that people who suffer from anxiety tend to clench their jaws or grind their teeth, even at night when they are asleep.
Some people grind their teeth so hard that the loud noise wakes their partners. In the process of putting more than 250 pounds of force on jaws, they tend to develop muscle and joint problems, and wear down their teeth.
Bruxism: The Most Common Effect of Stress on Your Teeth
Most people don’t realize that they are grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws, and in severe cases, they do it during the day as well. This condition, known as bruxism, affects approximately 30% of people, and often leads to temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ for short). It is clear that where bruxism is concerned, damaged teeth is only one of many symptoms, which include head, neck, jaw and ear aches; pressure, fullness or ringing in the ears, and sensitive teeth.
Other Effects of Negative Emotions on Your Teeth
Jaw Popping or Pain – Clicking or popping in your jaw, or jaw pain in general is often caused by mental or emotional stress. It is often an early sign of temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which can be made worse by stress. Much like bruxism, TMD can also damage the enamel of your teeth due to the grinding.
Both TMD and bruxism cause the tooth enamel to become worn due to regular grinding. This will eventually cause tooth ache, but worse still, is that it increases your risk of tooth decay or infections. The enamel is there to provide a protective surface, and with it gone, your teeth are exposed to germs and bacteria.
Researchers have drawn a direct correlation between mental and emotional stress, and the severity of gingivitis at the same time. People in the study who found positive outlets for their stress, were able to reduce their risk of periodontal disease.
How to Cope With Emotional Stress to Prevent Dental Problems
The most obvious method for dealing with negative emotions, is to remove the source – but that is not always practical or do-able. Instead, you may want to look for coping mechanisms to reduce your tension, stress and anxiety.
It is common to go through stress. It’s just a part of being human. In many cases, our minds tell us to be fearful. That’s not to say that a situation is not stressful, but sometimes, our minds make it seem much worse than it really is. Every human has much more potential and survival instincts than we could ever imagine.
Periodontal disease, TMD and other conditions can add more stress to your life, so it is well worth investigating ways to manage your stress to prevent further issues. In the meantime, be sure to follow the basics of oral health: brush twice daily, floss, and visit your dentist regularly for a thorough dental and gum examination.