Ever woken up with a. stiff jaw, a headache or sore teeth? Could be a sign of bruxism.
By Dr Lewis Ehrlich, holistic dentist, health coach and PT
Did you know that stress and anxiety can impact your oral health?
Stress can impact your oral health because the mouth is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and any disruption in the balance of the jaw can cause tooth and jaw-related problems. If you are physically stressed via poor posture, overly vigorous exercise, dysfunctional breathing or previous injury, the muscles in and around the neck and jaw tighten and go into spasm. This creates a pain pattern that can cause you to clench and grind your teeth (bruxism). Bruxism can lead to headaches, neckaches, jaw aches, cracked teeth, sensitive teeth and poor sleep quality.
Stress can also impact your teeth if you are emotionally stressed with the rigours of everyday life. We are more connected and wired than ever and this means there is little down time for our minds. Emotionally stressed people can also clench and grind their teeth - even in the absence of physical stress.
Mouth breathing at night can also cause stress related issues in the mouth. People that mouth-breathe are more likely to have gum disease which contributes to an increased inflammatory load on the body. The flow on effect is that these people are more susceptible to a range of systemic inflammatory conditions that are linked to gum disease like heart problems and diabetes.
Mouth breathers are also more likely to have dental decay because they dry out the saliva which has a protective effect for the teeth and gums.
Mouth breathing will also enlarge the tonsils, make the sinuses more inflamed and therefore leave you more susceptible to snoring, sleep disordered breathing and sleep apnea. This is a viscous cycle as these conditions make you more stressed e.g. via an increase in blood pressure while you sleep. If you aren’t breathing well during sleep, you won’t be rested and your risk of anxiety, depression and tooth grinding increases.
What are some of the signs that stress is affecting our oral health?
- Chipping or cracked teeth - this is a sign of grinding.
- Teeth that are sensitive to cold or sore to chew on - also a sign of grinding.
- Increased translucency (they appear more see-through) of the front teeth (this is a sign that your teeth are 'thinning out' due to wear or erosion).
- Red inflamed gums that bleed easily and/or are sore.
- Bad breath (halitosis) - another sign of mouth breathing, gum disease, poor oral hygiene and acid reflux.
- Waking up unrefreshed – this is a sign of sleep apnea.
- Waking up with headaches, neckaches or jaw aches.
So, what are some practical tips that you can do to help to fight the effects of stress on oral health?
1.. Get regular massage, physio, chiro, osteo or any other body workers that can help to reduce tension and postural stress which can lead to teeth grinding and chronic pain.
2. Have regular Epsom salt baths (at least 20mins) for its anti-stress effect.
3. Take a magnesium supplement daily or eat foods high in magnesium such as spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, kefir, almonds and avocados.