There are many sources of emotional or psychological stress in our lives that we are aware of or not. Some of these can be listed as environmental stress in work and social life, postural stress during sleep or due to our daily posture, nutritional stress caused by malnutrition or stress caused by dental problems. Although the body is designed to combat short-term stress, scientific studies have shown that chronic stress causes major health problems in the long term.
How does stress affect our teeth and jaw?
If stress has an impact on our health, what effect does it have on teeth? Can stress cause tooth decay or pain? Can stress or anxiety cause your teeth to shift or crowd? Let’s look the relationship between stress and teeth together.
Stress is associated with tooth decay due to reasons such as weakening of the immune system, triggering bad eating habits, increasing dry mouth, and neglect of personal care and oral hygiene.
When we’re stressed, we often try to relieve our symptoms by turning to stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, chocolate, or sugary foods. While this diet increases the susceptibility of teeth to decay, at the same time, instead of reducing stress, it increases the physiological stress we experience by increasing toxicity and inflammation in our body.
The technical term for the problem of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw is bruxism. Although there are many causes of bruxism, one of the causes is stress. Bruxism is often seen while asleep and its main cause is stress.
We can list the symptoms of bruxism as headache, problems with opening and closing the jaw, increased sensitivity or erosion of tooth enamel. Although stress can lead to bruxism, not all bruxism is caused by stress; There are cases where it is genetically based and caused by dental problems (such as occlusion problems, toothache). Treatment of bruxism may include applying Botox to the jaw muscles if mental stress is not possible and your dentist applying a mouth guard to help protect the mouth.
Extensive scientific research has shown that stress weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and diseases. People with a weakened immune system are also more prone to gum infections and gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into a rapidly progressive and serious gum disease.
When gum disease is severe, uncontrolled infection can lead to tooth loss as well as a number of other serious health problems, such as heart disease and autoimmune disease.
Ulcers in the mouth occur as a result of the weakening of the immune system. They are painful enough to interfere with speaking, eating and drinking. Symptomatic relief can be achieved with local anesthetic solutions and pomades recommended by the dentist. These ulcers usually tend to heal on their own, but in case of mouth sores that do not heal for a long time, a dentist should be consulted.
Long-term clenching due to stress causes serious enamel loss on the biting surfaces of the teeth and in the gingival-tooth junction areas. Enamel is the protective layer of teeth and unfortunately it is not an edible tissue. When the tooth loses its protective layer, you can immediately feel its effects when you consume cold or drink alcohol. It is very important for the quality of life to replace the lost enamel layer by determining the appropriate material by the dentist.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is an oral disease that affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control it. Chronic stress can lead to constant contraction of the jaw muscles (bruxism) and temporomandibular joint disorder in the long term.
Using a splint to treat bruxism and relieve the joint may help reduce or improve a TMJ problem. In more serious joint problems, lubricant injection into the area or surgery of the joint may be required.
As surprising as it may sound, stress or anxiety causes your teeth to shift/move. The forces that occur during clenching or grinding can cause the teeth to change position slightly. This is because grinding pushes the lower jaw forward, causing stress on the teeth in opposing jaws. The constant pushing force affects the position of the teeth, pushing them out of alignment.
Being aware of how stress can affect our general health as well as teeth and surrounding tissues is very important in combating stress. In addition to combating stress by getting to the root of the problem, exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques can be used. It is important to consult your dentist for the solution of dental problems caused by chronic stress.