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Many of us know that stress can disrupt various aspects of our well-being, from sleep patterns to weight gain (or loss) to heart health and more. But did you know it can affect your teeth as well? We asked medical professionals to expound on the implications of stress on dental health. Read on to learn more.
Alison Huff is the Editor-In-Chief at Women’s Health Interactive and works as a freelance writer.
Stress can impact the health of your teeth, and it can do so in a few different ways.
Stress can sometimes affect the food choices we make – whether that means we’re craving sugar, sticky candy, sodas, or other foods that can negatively impact the physical health of our teeth. This is worsened, of course, if we’re not brushing and flossing regularly.
Additionally, even nail-biting – whether it’s a regular habit or one that only emerges in times of stress – can be harmful to your teeth. That’s a habit that I still have to fight, myself, and I do find that it is worse when I am stressing or worrying about something.
Those two things aside, I feel that the absolute worst way that stress can affect teeth is the tendency for a person to grind their teeth in times of stress, or even at night while they're sleeping.
I do not often feel highly stressed in my daily life (I’m pretty laid back, generally) and I don’t grind my teeth during the day, but I have a VERY bad problem with bruxism at night. Once in a while, I’ll catch myself clenching my jaw during the day but I make a point of relaxing it quickly whenever I catch myself doing it; clearly, I’m unable to do that at night while I’m sleeping.
Quite frankly, I’m realistically looking at the possibility of needing dentures within the next couple of years because of decades of bruxism. I do wear a night guard and that has at least helped to keep my teeth from breaking (for the most part), but I have substantial bone loss from the constant jaw trauma, and I’m only in my 40s. Granted, my genetics may play a role in this to a degree, but it’s definitely been made far, far worse because of teeth grinding.
For reference, I use soft plastic mouth guards you mold at home. I had a hard professionally-molded acrylic one – once. I wore it through in five weeks. My dentist was dumbfounded. They’re too expensive for me to front $400+ a month, so I make do with the cheapies you can buy over the counter.
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