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How Can Stress Affect Your Teeth?

An infographic on the American Institute of Stress’s website clearly illustrates what a widespread problem stress is.
a close up of grinding teeth, how can stress affect your teeth

According to the infographic, 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, and about 20 percent of people experience extreme stress. Stress is a large contributing factor in many diseases and other physical health conditioners.

Thinking about stress is stressful, right? However, it pays to be aware of how stress can affect you so you can combat the problem. Here, we’ll examine some ways that stress can affect your oral health.

Grinding and Clenching

When you grind or clench your teeth, this is technically known as bruxism. You might not even know that you have bruxism, since the grinding and clenching typically happens at night while you are asleep. If you notice that the tips of your teeth appear flatter than they once did, or if your teeth become extremely sensitive, you may have bruxism. A sore jaw is another symptom to look out for.

Your dentist can determine if bruxism is a serious problem for you and prescribe a treatment, which may include wearing a custom mouth guard in bed.

Gum Disease

Stress can increase your chances of experiencing gum disease. Gum disease starts out as gingivitis and progresses to a more severe form, periodontitis, if left untreated. The symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen gums that bleed easily. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that are the perfect place for infections to take root.

Good oral hygiene can greatly reduce your risk of contracting gum disease.


TMD is the abbreviation for “temporomandibular disorders.” TMD takes in a range of different disorders that affect the muscles and joints in your jaw and neck. TMJ stands for “temporomandibular joint” and refers to a condition that is exclusive to the joint that connects your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. If you experience sore jaw muscles or popping and clicking in your jaw, you may have TMD or TMJ. You might also notice severe pain or trouble moving your jaw up and down.

Constant clenching of your teeth due to stress and frustration can contribute to TMD and TMJ development.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when your saliva glands do not produce enough saliva to adequately moisten the inside your mouth.

Stress may be at the root of dry mouth conditions in that some medications, including those you might take for stress, can cause dry mouth. Stress might also move you to breathe more with your mouth, and the incoming air can lead to dryer conditions in your mouth.

Dry mouth can increase your risk of cavities and make chewing and swallowing uncomfortable.

Drinking water and using a specially designed mouthwash may help relieve your dry mouth to a degree, but it is important to address the underlying cause of your dry mouth, whether that is stress, medication, or another health condition such as diabetes.

Canker Sores

Canker sores, otherwise known as mouth ulcers, are simply painful sores inside your mouth. If you’re too vigorous when you’re cleaning your teeth, or if you chew your tongue or cheeks, you may experience canker sores. Research also indicates that stress can increase the risk of developing canker sores.

You might be able to treat canker sores by yourself at home using herbs or other remedies such as coconut oil. However, severe canker sores may require professional medical attention.


Stress can weaken your immune system, increasing your risk for oral infections. When you add this increased risk to some of the other oral stress-related symptoms, you have a recipe for disaster. Try to prevent infections by maintaining good oral hygiene habits and by eating immune-boosting foods.

What to Do About Stress-Related Teeth Problems

Look for ways to mitigate your stress. You may have to adjust your schedule or do something as extreme as look for another job that will put fewer demands on you. You can also use stress-reducing techniques to cultivate a calm outlook. Your physician should be able to give you some tips on how to deal with stress and its symptoms.

It’s also worth it to put your dental insurance to work and pay a visit to a dentist or a dental specialist. He or she can evaluate just how much stress has affected your oral health and recommend treatments to get your smile back in tip-top shape.

Stress may be unavoidable sometimes, but there are things you can do to stop stress from taking a heavy toll on your oral health. By being aware of the symptoms of stress-related oral conditions, you can get in front of problems before they become too serious.

Image via Flickr by Brandon Heyer

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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