Your oral health affects your overall health.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. The key is to develop healthy and constructive ways to manage stress, so you can weather life’s challenges without compromising your health. Most people understand that there are cause-and-effect relationships among different parts of the body, but they tend to underestimate how closely oral health can be linked to overall health. If stress is leading to poor oral health habits, there could be consequences that go beyond your teeth and gums. Keep reading to learn more and get tips on how managing stress can lead to better health.

Mismanaging stress can lead to a variety of oral health problems. Here are some of the most common consequences of unchecked stress.

Teeth Grinding

Many people who are experiencing stress end up clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth, especially at night as they sleep. While you might not even notice that you are grinding your teeth, you will feel the consequences once you wake up. This unconscious habit can interrupt your sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and sluggish, cause chronic jaw pain, lead to painful headaches, and result in broken and loosened teeth.

If you continue to grind your teeth over a long period of time, you could end up with temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ. This can leave your jaw feeling stiff and can cause swelling, pain, and persistent popping in the lower jaw. TMJ can be treated with muscle relaxers, mouth guards, and physical therapy, but the best first step you can take is managing stress, so your jaw muscles aren’t in a constant state of tension.

Gum Infection

Stress has a major effect on the body’s immune system. When you are experiencing acute and prolonged stress, you are more susceptible to infections. This includes gum infections. When your immune system isn’t operating at 100%, harmful bacteria can spread throughout your mouth and lead to bad breath, decaying teeth, and bleeding gums that can become infected.

Gum infections are particularly problematic because they can turn into systemic conditions that affect the entire body. In fact, poor oral health and gum disease have been linked to both cancer and heart disease. Ignoring stress can have a snowball effect that begins in your mouth and builds until major organs are under attack from infections, so managing stress is something you should do to decrease the possibility of developing infections.

Canker Sores

Canker sores can range from being mildly uncomfortable to quite painful. While they can be tied to a variety of causes, stress is one of the leading factors. If you aren’t eating well and taking care of your health, you can develop a vitamin B deficiency. Improper nutrition combined with stress can lead to canker sores, which will only amplify your stress levels.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When we are feeling good and grounded, we tend to stick to a routine and practice better self-care. This includes taking care of oral health and sticking to brushing and flossing routines. Stress can easily throw these good habits off track and allow oral health to go by the wayside.

During stressful times, you may also turn to alcohol, cigarettes, and sugary foods to help cope. All of these habits are bad for both your oral and overall health. Cigarettes will stain your teeth, cause dry mouth and bad breath, and accelerate tooth decay. Alcohol and unhealthy foods that are high in sugar will have many of the same consequences. Instead of looking for temporary solutions to your stress, you should find tools for managing stress that provide lasting relief and allow you to protect your health.

Links Between Oral and Overall Health

If you aren’t taking care of your oral health, it will eventually affect your overall health. As mentioned above, gum disease can be a risk factor when it comes to various kinds of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Poor hygiene and diet can promote the growth of bacteria, which can spread to the rest of the body. In addition, the mouth can be one of the first places where you will start to notice symptoms of larger health problems. So, if you are ignoring your oral health, you could also be missing out on opportunities for early diagnosis of more chronic diseases. That is why it is so important to manage stress and protect your oral health.

Tips for Managing Stress

  • Exercise regularly. There is no better way to relieve stress and protect your immune system. Schedule exercise into your daily routine, so it is harder to find an excuse not to visit the gym or go for a run.
  • Stick to a sleep routine. A lack of sleep will only exacerbate your stress levels and make it harder to stick to healthy habits. Try going to bed at the same time every night. If you have trouble falling asleep, set aside time before bed to take a relaxing bath, read, or enjoy a cup of chamomile tea. The more consistent your routine is, the better.
  • Schedule time to spend on your hobbies and interests. It is important to continue to make time to do the things that bring you joy. Even if you have a lot on your plate, you need to continue to invest time in your mental well-being.

Managing stress will not only improve your oral health but also your overall health. It is all too easy to let daily stressors add up and push you out of your routine. While this is understandable, it can have long-term consequences. Even taking small steps and incorporating at least one stress-reducing habit into your life can protect and maintain your oral health. If you want more advice about how to improve your oral health and get back to practicing healthy habits, contact the team at Millenium Dental. We can help you achieve better health and a beautiful smile.