5 ways to fight the effects of stress on your oral health

Portrait of a beautiful young woman brushing teeth in the bathroom.
Portrait of a beautiful young woman brushing teeth in the bathroom.
Stress is all around us in 2020 – it’s not only an unpleasant experience but can also take a toll on our digestion, skin and sleep. Many of us try to support our bodies through stressful times with exercise, meditation or extra vitamins, but what about the impact stress can have on our teeth and gums?

According to new research from Philips Sonicare*, more than a third of Australians (39%) do not know how their lifestyle impacts their oral health. Lucky for you, we spoke to health professional, Dr Rick Iskandar, and he shared his top tips on keeping on top of oral health in times of stress. So, here are five key signs to look out for that may indicate stress is damaging your teeth and gums, as well as a few easy ways you can support your oral health during busy times…

Teeth grinding

Stress is one of the most common factors which triggers teeth grinding, which often occurs completely subconsciously. Stress can cause you to clench or grind your teeth at night, which can cause chronic conditions if untreated. If you begin grinding your teeth during stressful periods, it can develop into a regular habit. So if you notice you are waking up with a sore or tired jaw, tension in the sides of your face or have unusual headaches throughout the day, you should speak to your dentist as soon as possible about suitable treatments.

Mouth ulcers

During periods of high-stress, our mouths are more vulnerable to the development of ulcers because stress negatively affects our body’s immune system. When you’re stressed, it’s as important as ever to maintain a strong oral health routine. I always recommend my patients use an electric toothbrush which is clinically proven to remove up to 10 times more plaque than a manual toothbrush and noticeably improves the health of your gums within two weeks. If mouth ulcers are causing you significant discomfort, are occurring more frequently or last for more than two weeks, see your dentist.

Dry mouth

Stress, anxiety and depression can negatively influence ‘unstimulated salivary flow rate’ (how much saliva is being produced when you’re not eating), which can cause an uncomfortably dry mouth and dental diseases. While reducing stress is the best way to prevent this – limiting your caffeine and tobacco intake, using a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol and breathing through your nose – are great ways to help avoid dry mouth. In stressful periods it is also important to stay as hydrated as possible as this will also support your oral health.

Bleeding gums

You can experience bleeding gums for a few different reasons. If you notice a small amount of blood when you spit out toothpaste, you might have sensitive gums, but if you notice your gums are bleeding consistently you might have gum disease. In stressful periods when the body’s natural defences are down, it is even more important to floss to help protect your gums against disease and sensitivity.

Bad breath

Bad breath is generally caused by an excess of bad bacteria in the mouth, but some people continue to experience oral odour even though they brush and floss regularly. In these cases, stress may be the culprit. In high-stress situations, the mouth produces less saliva, without sufficient saliva flow, the mouth is less able to clean and shield itself from tooth decay and gum disease, often leading to bad breath. Luckily, there are many ways to fight bad breath caused by a dry mouth. Keeping the mouth moist by drinking plenty of water is essential. Chewing sugar-free gum can also stimulate the production of saliva. If you use mouthwash to wash away bad-smelling bacteria, make sure to pick one that contains little or no alcohol, which can further dehydrate the mouth.

*All figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,023 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th-29th December 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).


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