Stress can be helpful in spurring us to action, but it can also present a host of negative effects. A little bit of stress is normal, but unrelenting tension can take its toll on all aspects of our health—including oral health. Though many people don’t know it, stress contributes to gum disease, bruxism or teeth grinding, dry mouth, and canker sores.

Stress Hurts Oral Health

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Your body deals with stress in different ways—some obvious, some less so. Teeth grinding is a common coping method. You may grind away at your pearly whites while you are sleeping, damaging your teeth and enamel and causing pain in your neck, jaw, and head. If you are a tooth grinder, talk to your dentist about prescribing a night guard.

Stress can also take a toll on your immune system, which may increase your risk for infection in the mouth. Stress can cause dry mouth, and so can the medications used to treat your stress and depression. Saliva is your mouth’s first line of defense. There is a higher risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infection when you do not produce enough saliva in your mouth.

Stress can trigger canker sores, which are bothersome and painful. Thankfully, canker sores usually go away after several days, but your dentist may prescribe a rinse or topical treatment if the sores are particularly bothersome.

If you deal with a lot of pressure in your life, you may not make adequate time to care for your teeth. Neglecting your oral health can lead to tooth decay, which can, in turn, lead to tooth loss.

If you do lose permanent teeth, you cannot just ignore the problem. The surrounding teeth can move and become unstable. The supporting bone structure could break down, and you could lose more teeth in time. Talk to your periodontist about replacing teeth with dental implants. They look good, are easy to maintain, and can last for many years.