Stress can negatively affect our overall health in a number of ways including compromising our body’s immune system. This makes it harder for you to fight off common illnesses such as colds and the the flu virus. A depressed immune system can also negatively affect your oral health in a number of ways.
If you have a lowered immune system, it is harder to fight off infections, thereby making you more susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the gums and tissues supporting your teeth. If it is not properly treated and is allowed to progress to Periodontitis, it can lead to tooth failure and eventually tooth loss. In fact, untreated periodontal disease is currently one of the leading causes of tooth loss in the United States.
Stress can also cause you to clench or grind your teeth: a condition known as Bruxism. In many cases, individuals grind their teeth at night, when they are sleeping, and are not even aware of the habit. Clenching and grinding your teeth can cause undo wear and tear on your teeth, leading to tooth failure. It can also cause Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders. TMJ disorders can cause a myriad of symptoms including chronic headaches, ear pain, dizziness and more. If you clench and/or grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend that you wear a mouthguard at night, to prevent this habit. Custom night guards can be created in a dental laboratory and are specially made to fit your bite.
We all deal with stress on a daily basis. However, the way that we react to stressful situations can really determine the effect that stress has on our health. Learning healthy, constructive ways of dealing with stress can go a long way in protecting your long-term health. Physical exercise, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and even laughter can help to combat stress in your life. Talking to a psychologist or mental heath professional about the underlying causes of your stress may also be helpful. If stress is negatively affecting your life, talk to your doctor today about the lifestyle changes you can make that will help you manage the stress in your life so it does not negatively affect your dental and your overall health.