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Stressed Person

The Link Between Stress and Oral Health

77 percent of Americans regularly experience the physical symptoms of stress. Meanwhile, 73 percent regularly experience the psychological signs of stress. As for those who feel that they are living under extreme stress, they rank at 33 percent. In addition, 48 percent of folks think their stress level has gotten higher in the past five years. Not surprisingly, job pressure, money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation were identified as the top causes of stress in the US. In fact, 76 percent cite money and work as the leading cause(s) of their stress. Let’s talk about stress, its effects, how how stress and oral health have a connection.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as a response to pressure or threat – real or perceived. Stress 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?

Did you know that 33 percent of people believe they are living under extreme stress daily? 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 say that money and work are the top causes 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.

Stress and Oral Health

Stress, especially ongoing and chronic, must not be taken for granted. In fact, stress and oral health have some toxic links to one another including:

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

Oral health effects

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. Likewise, this can wear out the enamel and cause teeth sensitivity.

Additionally, canker and cold sores may appear as stress can lower the immune system. In turn, a breakout of these sores can appear.

Dry mouth is another side effect of stress. Dry mouth makes the mouth susceptible to tooth decay, oral infections, and gum disease. This is because of the decrease in saliva production. Saliva, after all, 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. In turn, this has an effect on both your oral and general health. Because bacteria is much harder to fight off with a weak immune system, gum disease is more likely to occur. The stronger and longer the negative emotion sticks around, the worse your immunity. And as everyone knows, your immune system plays a vital role throughout your entire body, including your mouth.

Emotions and oral health

Keeping your emotional well-being at a healthy level will increase your immune system. In turn, this can help you fight off health problems in general.

High stress, anxiety, extreme sadness, can also cause negative emotions to worsen. Negative emotions can cause our body’s nutrients to deplete quicker than usual. Without the proper vitamins and minerals, the strength of our teeth may suffer. Additionally, negative emotions like anger and depression may cause some folks to either eat less or turn to junk foods during the duration of their emotion. These junk foods can negatively impact the teeth.

Apart from nutrition, negative emotions can cause us to gravitate away from our self-care routine. Negative emotions may also impact exactly how we engage in oral care. For instance, someone with anger might brush their teeth harder and faster than normal. When you think about it, it does make sense. When you’re not happy, it’s no surprise your general hygiene suffers too.

Fortunately, negative emotions are temporary. However, problems regarding your oral and general health may not be so temporary. So, upkeeping hygiene and getting help for long-term emotional problems if necessary is critical.

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