Jaw pain and headaches could be stress related.
THE PAIN OF STRESS ON YOUR ORAL HEALTH
People may overlook the effect stress has on our oral health. However, our mouths can be just as affected by stress as the rest of our bodies are. Stress can have real consequences for our oral health as well as overall well-being.
The general effect of stress is that people tend to neglect their oral health-care routines: they may not brush or floss as often as they should or miss dental appointments; they alter their diet by consuming more sugar- and carbohydrate-laden foods; and they drink more coffee and other unhealthy liquids like energy drinks and soda pop. This not only greatly increases the risk of tooth decay, but the additional acid contributes to the erosion of tooth enamel.
The signs and symptoms of chronic stress can be subtle, and you may not be aware of its effects until it’s too late. Being able to detect the oral signs of stress means your dentist is the first line of defense against the toll stress can take on your health.
Stress can also manifest into various oral health conditions that, if left untreated, can have serious impacts to your overall health and well-being. Here are some of the more common ones.
Stress is a contributing factor to other serious oral-health conditions, including:
Bruxism, or teeth grinding. People under stress may clench or grind their teeth, especially during sleep, and may not even be aware of it. Over a long period of time, bruxism can wear down tooth surfaces. Teeth can also become painful or loose from severe grinding or prone to fractures.
The tell-tale signs and symptoms of bruxism are:
- teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
- worn tooth enamel
- increased tooth sensitivity
- damage from chewing on your tongue or the inside of your cheek
- pain or soreness in the jaw or face, tired or tight jaw muscles
- a dull headache originating in the temples, pain that feels like an earache
Over a long period of time, bruxism can cause a lot of irreparable damage. Bruxism is also a major cause of disorders that occur in the temporomandibular joints. Depending on the patient, a dentist will recommend an oral appliance or nightguard which may help in reducing the bruxism habit and helps protect the teeth from damage caused by grinding.
Temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD affects the jaws joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn. Symptoms include tender or sore jaw muscles, headaches and problems opening or closing your mouth. Bruxism is a major cause of TMD – clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache.
Periodontal (gum) disease. Research has shown that stress affects our immune systems, increasing our susceptibility to infections, including the bacteria that cause gum disease. At times gingival tissues can show signs of inflammation that could be stress-related as well as increased signs and symptoms of certain oral conditions like lichen planus.
Xerostomia (dry mouth). Dry mouth can be caused by stress and can also be a side-effect of medications taken to treat stress and depression. Saliva is vital to keep your mouth moist, wash away food and neutralize the acids that are produced by plaque. Without an adequate flow of saliva, your mouth’s first line of defense against plaque is compromised and this can lead to tooth decay. If dry mouth is left untreated, you can develop tooth decay, gum disease and be at a greater risk for fungal or viral infections in your mouth.
To combat the effects of dry mouth, your dentist may recommend that you chew sugarless gum, sip water regularly and use non-alcohol mouthwashes and over-the-counter saliva substitutes.
Time to De-stress
It may be impossible to eliminate all stress from your life, but you can take simple steps to reduce its impact on your health.
- Find relaxation techniques or exercises to help you cope with stress. Counselling may also help.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
- Schedule and keep regular appointments with your dentist. Your dentist can detect the signs of stress during an examination, and therefore diagnose and treat stress-related oral-health problems before they worsen.
- Talk to your dentist about getting a custom-fitted nightguard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to moisten your mouth and stay hydrated.
- Stay active. If you don’t have time to exercise, a 30-minute walk every day is a good start.
- Get plenty of sleep.
If you or a family member suffer from jaw pain and headaches call Dr. Appleton and schedule an appointment.