Can Stress Ruin My Teeth?

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

Alison Huff

Alison Huff is the Editor-In-Chief at Women’s Health Interactive and works as a freelance writer.

In a few different ways

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.


Dr. Lina Velikova

Dr. Lina Velikova

Dr. Lina Velikova’s journey into the world of medicine started in 2004. After her graduation, she became motivated to become an immunologist. She has extensive experience as a scientist and author of scientific papers. Find her here:

Stress can ruin your teeth in several ways.

If you’re stressed, you’re more likely to grind your teeth, which can have an abrasive effect on them, leading to their destruction.

If you’re stressed, it’s more likely that your immune system will suffer, and consequently, you’ll be more prone to cavities and dental-related infections and issues.

If you’re stressed, you’re more likely to develop canker sores, painful sores on the inside tissue of your cheek and mouth, leading to ulceration.

Joel Gould

Dr. Joel Gould, DDS

Dr. Joel Gould, DDS author of the upcoming book “The Modern Epidemic” and Founder of The Modern American Dentistry Group.

Ties in with how we sleep

As the adage goes, “You are what you eat,” meaning what is ingested is reflected on your outer layer. To get the fuel we need to function properly we rely on our greatest asset to break down our main energy source, those pearly white teeth. Proper oral care goes beyond brushing [the] teeth, gums, and tongue. It ties in with how we sleep and prevent illnesses that are detrimental to our health and well being.

Cassondra Feldman, Psy.D.

Dr. Cassie Feldman is a licensed clinical psychologist in Miami, Florida specializing in health and medical psychology. Find her here:

Unintended negative consequences

Stress can have unintended negative consequences when it comes to dental health and oral hygiene. When we consider the stress response, we can think of its impact at various levels. Biologically speaking, the release of stress hormones (such as cortisol) leads to activation of a slew of responses, including processes that can impact jaw tension and bruxism. These can lead to phenomena such as chronic jaw pain, disrupted sleep, and headache and exacerbate TMJ.

It is also interesting to consider the impact of stress on the role of healing. Based on the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which is responsible for linking the mind, emotional processes, and immune function, we know that wound healing can be impaired and delayed when there are higher levels of stress, making it harder to heal from potential oral wounds such as canker sores.

Lastly, it is important to consider stress associated with common disorders such as anxiety. This can often lead to jaw-related tension that may impact oral health. It may also lead to major depression which may manifest for some in the form of lack of self-care, which can include [neglect] of oral hygiene/health.

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