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7 ways stress may be affecting your smile

Harper's Bazaar (UK) logo Harper's Bazaar (UK) 23/03/2020 The Editors
Severe stress can impact your dental health and oral hygiene. Here a dentist explains 7 ways that it may be affecting your teeth © Getty Images Severe stress can impact your dental health and oral hygiene. Here a dentist explains 7 ways that it may be affecting your teeth

When suffering from stress, anxiety, exhaustion or burnout, your physical and mental health may be affected in many different ways. One of which, that is lesser recognised, is the strain these conditions put on your oral health. Here, dentist Dr Sunny Sihra, owner of SimplyTeeth tells us exactly what stress can do to our dental health.

1. Oral hygiene may be compromised

“Stress can often lead to poor self-hygiene due to one’s mind being preoccupied with things such as work or personal issues (or global pandemics). You may find yourself losing interest in your oral health, and without daily flossing, brushing and use of mouthwash, this can ultimately lead to problems down the line with your teeth such as cavities, ulcers and gum issues. Many people with burnout may skip brushing their teeth altogether. This will create a build-up of plaque and over time will increase your chances of needing emergency dental work.”

2. You may suffer with bruxism

“If you’re stressed and find that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth a lot more often than usual, you might be suffering with a condition called bruxism. Bruxism is essentially where people clench their teeth for periods of time during the day, as well as grinding them at night, which is more commonly known as sleep bruxism. Stress can cause constant worrying and over-thinking, which can affect your body when asleep and cause you to grind your teeth. The symptoms of bruxism are increased tooth sensitivity and a decrease of enamel on the tooth; jaw soreness and tight jaw muscles; loose or chipped teeth; a headache that is focused around the temples; and loud grinding of your teeth at night. Bruxism is mostly associated with stress, and many people find they develop it when they have a lot of things on their mind - but habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption and too much caffeine can increase your risk of bruxism. If you think you are suffering you should consult your dentist or GP to see if they can provide guidance.”

3. Increased chances of gum disease

“Stress from burnout can affect your immune system which fights against the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, making a person more susceptible to oral infection, inflamed and bleeding gums, and eventually gum disease. Studies have shown that those with greater risk of developing gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, are people with highly emotional issues, social issues, and those suffering with financial or work troubles. So, if your job or social life is causing you to experience burnout and develop severe stress, then statistically you are more likely to develop long-term issues with your gums.”

4. Poor diet leading to various teeth troubles

“A poor diet is often associated with stress, as those with a lot on their mind and working long hours will most likely want to eat quick and easy foods, or skip meals - meaning they won’t be getting the proper vitamins and nutrients they need for optimum health. A poor diet can naturally lead to teeth troubles, especially if you are consuming more caffeine than usual (which will contribute to the yellowing of the teeth), a larger alcohol consumption or sugary drinks, which can promote teeth cavities, as well as plaque build-up.”

5. Dry mouth from a lack of saliva

“Stress is one of the main reasons you could be suffering with a dry mouth. You may find yourself having a dry mouth before stressful appointments such as work meetings or presentations, and those with high pressured or busy jobs who are more likely to experience burnout often suffer with this oral condition. Dry mouth essentially means a lack of saliva in your mouth – and saliva is imperative as it has many oral health benefits, including washing away food particles from your teeth and gums.”

a close up of a tattoo on their face: Part of woman's face. Woman's lips and nose. Soft skin. © CoffeeAndMilk - Getty Images Part of woman's face. Woman's lips and nose. Soft skin.

6. Persistent toothache from teeth grinding and jaw clenching

“Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) is a condition that many people suffer with when they are stressed or exhausted from working long hours. If you're stressed to the point of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth, you can develop tooth pain associated with the temporomandibular joint. Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw can put additional stress on the muscles of the mouth area which can cause quite persistent toothache and pain.”

7. Sore lips from lack of self-care

“It’s not just the teeth and gums that suffer when going through a burnout stage, your lips can also feel the brunt of it and can become really dry, chapped, cracked or bruised from stress. Dry or cracked lips may also be down to a lack of self-care as a lot of overworked people forget to apply lip balm, salve or moisturiser, and this can worsen over the winter months. But you may also find your lips starting to look cut and bruised - this can be from lip biting and nipping of the skin. If you’re not drinking enough water throughout the day this will also have adverse effect on your lips, preventing them from being hydrated, healthy and moisturised.”

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