Most tooth pain is an indication of an oral health issue like gum disease, decay, or infection. But just as stress can trigger health issues like headaches, neck pain, and stomach issues, it can also lead to tooth pain. Stress can also make you less concerned about your oral health, which means you may not be taking care of your teeth and gums as well as you should be. And let’s face it: when we’re stressed, a LOT of us make poor food choices as well, which can also lead to decay and infection, which leads to pain.
So how DOES stress affect your dental health?
Stress weakens your immune system, which can change your body’s ability to fight infection and in some cases lead to gum disease. When this happens your oral health gets compromised, and other dental problems may arise, causing pain. Add that to the poor oral health habits and diet choices we often make while stressed, and you have a recipe for problems.
Most commonly, stress can lead us to clench or grind our teeth, a condition called bruxism. It can happen when we are awake or asleep, and can cause stiffness or tenderness in the jaw and surrounding muscles, pain when biting down, headaches, and TMJ disorders. Disorders of the TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint, affect the joint that connects the skull and the lower jaw, as well as the surrounding muscles. Unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth can cause tooth and jaw pain, and even lead to TMJ disorders and injury.
Our natural teeth were built to last a lifetime. But unfortunately, dental-related injuries such as cracked or chipped teeth are much more likely during stress. Cases of cracked teeth and dental related injuries have surged throughout the pandemic, and the stress of living through a pandemic could be wreaking havoc on our oral health. In fact, instances of bruxism are up as well.
So what do I do?
If you suspect that you are dealing with bruxism, you can protect your teeth from injury by wearing protective mouth wear, such as a mouth guard, to mitigate the damage teeth grinding can cause. Our dentists can mold and produce a custom mouth guard specifically designed for you, and also monitor your teeth for damage.
If you have chipped one or more teeth, most can be repaired by bonding a tooth-colored filling or crown in place, but you should seek treatment as quickly as possible. In dental bonding, a composite resin veneer is made from a tooth-colored filling material bonded to the tooth. To learn more about the bonding we do in our office, visit our bonding page.
If you are concerned about visiting a dentist while COVID is still circulating widely, know that visiting a dentist is very safe. In fact, according to a study from the American Dental Association Science & Research Institute and Health Policy Institute, the COVID-19 infection rate among dentists remains lower than other health professionals. (Read more about our own safety measures in this post.) If you do have a dental emergency, it is best to avoid the emergency room or urgent care facility at this time, as they are experiencing high volumes of COVID patients. Instead reach out to your dentist or specialist right away.
Finally, know that if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, you are not alone. Your mental and physical health are both important, and stress can affect both. Reach out to a mental health professional if possible. Focus on reestablishing good dental practices such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing once, and using a fluoride mouthwash to combat plaque. Try a food diary to track your intake of junk food and sweets. Start a workout routine, try a yoga class, or just take a short walk on your lunch break. All of these and more are tools that can help you begin to reduce your stress, and help protect your teeth from damage.
Schedule a visit with us today if you are concerned about how stress is affecting your dental health. Visiting a dentist at least every six months can help fight tooth decay, and ensure that your oral health is maintained, even in the most stressful of times.