Have you been noticing some discomfort in your mouth lately and are curious as to what might be the cause? Surprisingly, an uncomfortable mouth is not always the result of poor dental hygiene.
It isn’t uncommon for dentists to hear a patient complain about their exceptional dental hygiene habits, yet still being plagued with cavities, gum problems, or even jaw pain.
It leads many to ask themselves one question: “Is stress causing my teeth to hurt?”
The answer is a resounding YES, and in more ways than one.
Your immune system is your health’s best friend, but unfortunately, stress is an immune system’s worst nightmare. As stress increases, our immune system’s ability to fight off infections decrease, leaving you with little to no defense against dangerous bacteria (including the bacteria inside our mouth). If you happen to develop gingivitis and are unable to maintain your levels of stress, you are at an increased risk for gum disease.
Canker sores are generally caused from chewing, biting, or sucking on the inside of your mouth, or from brushing too hard, but research also suggests that stress puts people at an increased risk for developing these painful little sores. If canker sores are not treated correctly, or become too severe, they may even require professional help from a dentist or doctor.
TMD and TMJ
Even though sleep can feel pretty peaceful, our bodies can still be experiencing an enormous amount of anxiety. If you are stressed, you might be grinding and clenching your teeth together during your sleep. This could lead to jaw pain, or jaw popping or clicking (which might be a sign that your have TMD or TMJ).
Speaking of grinding and clenching, the technical term for this problem is called ‘bruxism’. Bruxism can slowly wear down the surface of your teeth, making them appear very flat at the edges. Extremely sensitive teeth and/or a sore jaw are a sign that you may have bruxism. Serious cases of bruxism may require a nighttime mouth guard to prevent your teeth from being at risk.
Stress is a very internal problem, and at times can be difficult to manage. The good news is that if you are aware of the toll stress takes on your oral health, you can recognize your symptoms before they get too out of hand, and get the help you need!