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How Does Stress Affect Our Oral Health?

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as a response to pressure or threat – real or perceived — which then affects everyone in all walks of life everywhere.

When we are stressed, our body experiences a chemical reaction that lets us act in a way to prevent injury. Known as the “fight-or-flight” or stress response, this reaction helps protect us by:

  • increasing our heart rate
  • quickening our breathing
  • tightening our muscles
  • raising our blood pressure

What causes stress?

The United States stress statistics show 77 percent of Americans regularly experience the physical symptoms caused by stress. Meanwhile,73 percent regularly experience the psychological signs of stress.

Those who feel that they are living under extreme stress are at 33 percent. Moreover, those who think their stress level increased in the past five years are at 48 percent.

The top causes of stress include:

  • job pressure
  • money
  • health
  • relationships
  • poor nutrition
  • media overload
  • sleep deprivation

Among these causes, 76 percent of Americans cite money and work as the leading cause of their stress.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Symptoms of stress can be ambiguous but affect all aspects of our lives.

Emotional indications of stress include

  • agitation
  • frustration
  • mood swings
  • losing control or feeling the need to take control
  • difficulty relaxing and calming the mind
  • low self-esteem
  • loneliness
  • worthlessness
  • depression
  • avoiding social contact.

On the other hand, physical symptoms include:

  • low energy level
  • headaches
  • upset stomach
  • tensed muscles
  • chest pain
  • rapid heartbeat
  • insomnia
  • loss of sexual desire and ability
  • frequent colds
  • dry mouth
  • clenched jaw
  • grinding of teeth
  • nervousness
  • shaking
  • ringing in the ear
  • cold or sweaty hands and feet

Meanwhile, behavioral signs of stress include:

  • a change in appetite
  • procrastination
  • increased alcohol, drugs, and cigarette use
  • neurotic behaviors like nail biting

Lastly, cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • racing thoughts
  • poor judgment
  • inability to focus
  • pessimism
  • forgetfulness
  • constant worrying.

How does stress affect our oral health?

Stress, especially ongoing and chronic, must not be taken for granted as it can cause serious health consequences such as:

  • mental health problems
  • cardiovascular disease
  • eating disorders
  • sexual dysfunction
  • skin and hair problems
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • menstrual problems.

Also, stress and its consequences can extend to oral health. For instance, the tightening of the jaw muscles and clenching of teeth when you are stressed can cause temporomandibular disorders, wear out enamel, and teeth sensitivity.

Additionally, canker and cold sores may appear as stress can lower the immune system, causing the breakout of these sores. Dry mouth makes the mouth susceptible to tooth decay, oral infections, and gum disease because of the decrease in saliva production which is essential in fighting off the naturally-occurring mouth bacteria.

Stress also increases the risk of developing periodontal diseases because of the weaker immune system, allowing bacteria to thrive and damage the gums. Gum disease, when not remedied, can lead to serious health problems.

Consult your dentist on the appropriate treatment for your oral-related issues. Also, practice proper dental hygiene always.

But, although it is essential to treat dental problems, it is vital to address stress by knowing how to manage it. You can tap the help of health professionals to prevent stress overload.

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