How stress can affect oral health

pouring wine

Most people suffer from stress at various points in their lives, but when it becomes an ongoing issue, it can impact on a person’s physical and mental health. However, many do not realise that stress can also be very detrimental to a person’s oral health.  This article explores how this occurs; and suggests ways to address the various factors.

Teeth grinding

People who suffer from stress can also suffer from bruxism as a consequence. This is a condition whereby the person grinds their teeth, usually during the night while they are asleep. They are often unaware that they are doing this; but may find they have a sore jaw and headaches on waking – or even sensitivity in the affected teeth.

For some people, improving the quality of sleep and reducing the causes of stress can prevent further episodes of bruxism. However, others may benefit from wearing a mouth guard during sleep to stop grinding occurring. A good dentist will create a tailor made one that is comfortable to wear and that does not affect the patient’s sleep.

Alcohol and tobacco

Some people react to stress by self-medicating with alcohol and tobacco, both of which can be damaging for oral health.  Drinking can make a person less likely to be mindful of keeping to a regular routine of cleaning and flossing the teeth. Smoking is arguably the worst thing people can do in terms of their oral health – it can cause gum disease, stained teeth, tooth loss and more.

Anyone who is concerned about their drinking should seek medical advice; and it is worth using an app like Drinkaware to monitor alcohol consumption and develop awareness with a view to cutting down. There is lots of help available for people who want to stop smoking, including NRT, cognitive behavioural therapy and more.


For others, times of stress result in the increased consumption of sugary foods and drinks. Chocolate, cola and sweets can give a temporary boost to someone who is feeling overwhelmed by the demands placed on them. However, indulging in these kinds of items on a regular basis can be detrimental to the teeth and gums.

Instead of reaching for a bar of chocolate, it’s worth trying something else instead. A cup of tea, glass of water or some sugar free gum can all help a person to de-stress without taking in a lot of sugar.

Finding solutions

stress in dentist

People who are concerned about the impact of stress on their oral health should explore the options to find the best solution for them and their lifestyle. There is a multitude of healthy ways to alleviate stress without damaging the teeth and gums – it’s just a case of finding the right one.

Many have found that deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can all be excellent at keeping the stresses of life at bay. Others opt for massages, reading, affirmations or even seeing a counsellor or other mental health professional for advice. If in any doubt, people should visit their GP to get help.

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