If you feel stressed out regularly, then you’re probably pretty familiar with what it does to you. Being stressed out might make you want to eat more or less, make you feel antsy and irritable, and might disrupt your sleep.
But did you ever think about the effect stress might be having on the health of your mouth? While you might not expect stress to be a contributing factor in gum disease, the reality is that being stressed out can have a negative effect on the health of your gums. High-stress levels might also affect the health of your mouth in other ways.
Read on to learn more about the link between stress and periodontal disease and what you can do to help yourself relax.
What’s the Connection Between Stress and Gum Disease?
How does stress contribute to gum disease? There are a few possible explanations.
One explanation is that high levels of stress increase your body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is your body’s natural way of handling stress. When you’re feeling maxed out, you produce more of this hormone. Cortisol raises the level of glucose in your blood and helps your brain use glucose more effectively.
It also switches off or suppresses functions in the body that would be less important in a traditional “fight or flight” situation. Most notably, cortisol suppresses immune function. The lowering of your immunity might make you more susceptible to gum disease and other infections.
Along with changing the dynamics of your body, high levels of stress might lead you to engage in behaviors that can increase your risk of gum disease. For example, people who are stressed might be more likely to smoke cigarettes or use other forms of tobacco. One of the leading causes of gum disease happens to be smoking and tobacco use.
You might also be more likely to make unhealthy dietary decisions when you’re stressed out. Plenty of people eat a lot of sugary foods or drink sugary sodas when they are feeling maxed out. Increasing your sugar intake can increase your risk of inflammation in the gums.
Does Stress Affect Your Mouth in Other Ways?
Gum disease isn’t the only oral care issue that stress can make worse. You might notice a few other problems in your mouth when you’re stressed out.
For example, people who are prone to canker sores might be more likely to get them when they are stressed. High-stress levels can also trigger outbreaks of cold sores.
Some people respond to stress by clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth. In some cases, people don’t even realize that they are doing this until they start to experience symptoms. You might notice that your jaw feels sore or that the tops of your teeth feel flat. An increase in tooth sensitivity, due to the enamel being worn away, is another sign that you might be grinding your teeth because of high-stress levels.
In some cases, people who are under a lot of stress might skip out on taking good care of themselves. They might feel like it’s too difficult to brush their teeth regularly and might start missing teeth cleaning appointments with their dentist. Falling behind on an oral care routine can make a person more likely to develop cavities and other problems in the mouth.
How Can You Reduce Stress?
While stress can make you feel like a mess and impact your dental health negatively, you don’t have to live with it. You have many options when it comes to lowering your stress levels.
In some cases, a complete overhaul of your life might be in order. If your job is stressful enough that it’s negatively affecting your health, you might consider changing careers or switching to a position that demands less of you.
Smaller changes can also sometimes help to lower stress levels. You might find that taking up a relaxation practice, such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing helps you feel more at ease. Some people see their stress levels drop when they take up running or other forms of vigorous exercise.
You might also try practices such as journaling to record your thoughts and to help you get a handle on what’s going on in your life. Talking to someone, such as a counselor or therapist, might also help you manage your stress.
If you’re stressed and are noticing changes in your mouth, a periodontal specialist might be able to help. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who offers patients a variety of treatment options for gum disease. If you think it’s time to see a periodontal specialist, call 305-547-8687 today to schedule an appointment in Miami, FL.