3 MIN READ | Wellness

Elena Deeley

How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Your Oral Health

Cite This
Elena Deeley, (2021, January 19). How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Your Oral Health. Psychreg on Wellness. https://www.psychreg.org/stress-anxiety-oral-health/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

During the past decade, a sudden wave of mental illness romanticising has shown its teeth. While these constant posts might have made a positive impact in spreading the word about different mental illnesses and breaking the stigma, they have also caused severe damage. None of these posts shows the real, ugly side of the truth. One of them being that anxiety, stress, and depression can cause severe dental health issues. 

People with depression, especially those who lie on the low-functioning end of the spectrum can go days without finding enough energy to brush their teeth or take care of their personal hygiene. Anxiety and stress can also severely affect dental health but in a very different way. Here is how anxiety usually takes its toll on the sufferers.

Too much grinding

Many people who suffer from stress and anxiety-related symptoms have some tics and habits that they might not even be aware of that can be harmful. Some people chew constantly on the insides of their lips. Others might not notice that they have been clenching their fists so hard until their nails have dug deep into their skin. Many people grind their teeth together constantly whenever they are in an anxiety-inducing situation. The worst thing about this habit is that many people end up grinding their teeth even during their sleep. Severe teeth grinding doesn’t only lead to sore jaws and headaches, but it can also lead to the risk of damaging or even losing teeth. Usually, handling stress and anxiety symptoms and controlling their impulses are the way to protect your teeth from grinding while you are awake.

Temporomandibular joints

Stress and anxiety disorder doesn’t only affect the person on a mental level, but it can cause deep physical problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. One of the many physically dangerous side effects of stress is temporomandibular joints disorder. TMJs are the joints used to move the lower jaw. When stress hits these joints, the sufferer might experience pain in their jaws, popping, or clicking. If you are a resident of New Zealand, a dentist in Christchurch recommends using a night guard during bedtime to stop any subconscious teeth grinding. Changes in lifestyle, diet, or anti-anxiety medication might also be recommended to handle stress and limit its damages.

Burning mouth

Burning mouth syndrome can be caused due to a number of reasons. Since stress can alter the way your body responds to any situation. In many cases, stress can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to burning mouth syndrome. Stress-related drinking and chain-smoking can also cause symptoms to get worse. Usually, the symptoms include dryness of the mouth and hot and burning sensations. Drinking lots of water and leading a healthy lifestyle can put a limit on these symptoms. It’s also recommended to seek mental and professional help whenever your anxiety is affecting the quality of the life you are leading.

Nail-biting

Nail-biting is another stress-related negative habit that many people cannot seem to quit or put under control. Nail-biting doesn’t only ruin your nails, but it can also cause severe damage to your teeth. Constant nail-biting can push your teeth out of their position and cause misalignment. Adding any bacteria or germs that might be underneath the nails to the equation raises the risk of mouth infections. If you have warts on your hands, biting nails can lead to spreading warts to the mouth. To stop yourself from this habit, there are multiple products that can be applied to the nails to make their taste bitter and intolerable. This way, you will be forced to stop biting your nails even if you are not fully aware that you are constantly doing this.

Poor oral hygiene

In many cases, anxiety is usually accompanied by depression. Unlike what many people think, depression isn’t equivalent to sadness. People who suffer from depression can struggle with doing the simplest tasks such as taking good care of their oral and dental health. Lack of proper care and maintenance can lead to several oral issues such as gum disease, infections, tooth decay, and more. If this is the case for you, then seeking professional help is essential.

Stress and anxiety can negatively affect all aspects of the sufferer’s life. Their effects go way beyond mental turmoil. Stress can alter the way your whole body operates and severely reduce the quality of life. Seeking professional help and doing lifestyle alterations are essential to managing anxiety and its various symptoms. If anxiety has taken a toll on your dental health, then it’s important to also seek medical help to protect yourself and your teeth from any further damage.  


Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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