Not all stress is bad for your health, but when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to a number of health problems, including problems with your teeth and gums.
When we're stressed, we typically don't take care of ourselves as we should. This might include eating poorly, not exercising, or sleeping enough. All of these things are bad for your oral health. For example, when you're stressed out, you'll probably choose junk food instead of healthy food, which will lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. The food we consume also tends to be sugary, which can cause plaque buildup that damages tooth enamel and causes cavities. Lack of sleep can lead to more stress and can also contribute to tooth decay because saliva secretion decreases your good night's rest.
A recent study published in the journal General Dentistry tested the link between stress and oral health. The study involved 121 undergraduate students who filled out a questionnaire about their stress levels; saliva was collected from each participant to test cortisol levels.
Researchers concluded that higher levels of cortisol - which is a hormone released in response to stress - were significantly associated with greater levels of plaque buildup and lower levels of pH in saliva. Lower acidity levels in the mouth increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Another study published in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association found that many people experience a rise in their blood pressure when they feel stressed or anxious. Hypertension increases the risk of periodontal disease because it weakens blood vessels, making them less effective at delivering oxygen and nutrients to your gums and teeth. In addition, it may also increase inflammation in the gum tissues, leading to swelling that can eventually lead to gum recession or even tooth loss.
Patients experiencing stress should also be sure to keep up with their regular dental care appointments. These checkups allow your doctor to spot any problems early and help you prevent more serious complications down the road. During your checkup, your dentist will check the state of your gums and teeth and check for any signs of oral cancer as well. If anything seems abnormal, they will be able to treat the problem before it gets worse. If cancer is caught and treated in its earliest stages, it can often be completely cured. However, if left undetected for too long, it can spread to other parts of the body and become more difficult to treat.
For all of these reasons, it is important to try to manage any stressful situations in your life as much as possible. Try to find healthy ways to relieve stress. Exercise is a great mood booster that can also contribute to better overall health. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep on a regular basis can also reduce hormonal imbalances that can cause issues with your oral health.
Roshan Emam, D.D.S., located in Palo Alto, CA, is equipped with the best dentists and modern technologies that enable the best dental care treatments for patients. Call us at (650) 321-0340 and schedule an appointment with the dentist to learn more.