There’s no doubt that smiling is good for your health, but what if your health is getting in the way of a healthy smile?
When considering the physical effects of stress, we may typically think of headaches, back pain or digestive issues. However, one area that often gets overlooked is the impact that stress can have on our oral health and – in particular – our smiles.
You can combat the numerous effects of mental health on your teeth by pairing dental care with other preventative measures. It’s even easier for AAA members living in Rhode Island, who have access to affordable coverage from Delta Dental.
But first, let’s look at just how mental health can potentially damage your smile.
The Ways Stress Impacts Oral Health
Stress can manifest itself in many ways, and one of the most obvious is through teeth grinding or clenching, also known as bruxism – a common issue that affects millions of people worldwide.
People who grind their teeth often do so unconsciously, especially during sleep or periods of stress. Over time, bruxism can lead to worn-down, chipped or cracked teeth, and even tooth loss. Additionally, teeth grinding can cause jaw pain, headaches and terrible earaches.
Another way that stress can impact your smile is through gum disease. When we are under stress, our immune system can become compromised, making it easier for bacteria to thrive in our mouths. This can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums, also known as gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss.
The connection between our oral health and mental health goes beyond just the physical effects of stress on our teeth and gums. Studies have shown that stress can have a significant impact on our mental health, leading to anxiety and depression. These conditions can further exacerbate the effects of stress on our oral health, leading to a vicious cycle. When we are stressed, we may be more likely to neglect our oral hygiene routine, such as brushing and flossing regularly, leading to more significant dental issues and perpetuating the feelings of depression.
The impact of stress on our oral health can also have social and psychological effects. People who are self-conscious about their teeth and smile may purposely avoid social situations, which creates feelings of isolation and loneliness, compounding the effects of stress.
How to Stress Less for a Better Smile
- Identify your stressors. The first step to mitigating the effects of stress on your oral health is to recognize what’s stressing you out. Once you know your stressors, you can start to develop strategies for coping with them.
- Reduce stress in a way that works for you. Managing stress looks different for everyone — some folks like exercise, others may prefer meditation or deep breathing exercises. Seeking support from a good friend or family member can distract you from your worries, but quiet time alone could also be a great way to relax and reset.
- Establish healthy habits. Getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking and drinking will benefit your overall wellbeing. And of course, practicing good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and routinely seeing a dentist for checkups, can significantly lessen your chances of developing stress-induced oral health issues.
By recognizing the signs of stress, taking steps to manage it and having a good dental plan, you can protect and maintain a healthy smile for life. If self-care is not enough, your physician or a professional therapist can also help.
AAA members in Rhode Island can take advantage of exclusive rates on Delta Dental plans. Get your custom rate today.