Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


Teeth Grinding, Dental Pain, and Decay: How Stress Affects Your Dental Health

Businessman frowning and clenching teeth - Teeth grinding and dental painStress – it’s one byproduct of a busy life that’s hard to avoid. Medical research has proven too much stress can lead to problems such as anxiety, fatigue, and depression. But did you know that stress can be almost as damaging to your dental health as it is to your mental health?

Unfortunately, our teeth, gums, and jaws can be affected by stressful situations, much as our bodies and minds can. Researchers have found a significant link between stress and oral health. Left unchecked, stress can lead to a variety of dental problems over time, including:

Teeth grinding

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding happens most often at night as we subconsciously attempt to handle stress, but it can happen during waking hours, too. Not only can bruxism lead to jaw pain, headache, or tooth sensitivity pain, it can wear down your enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. Bruxism can also damage work such as crowns and veneers. Note that nail biting – another anxiety-induced behavior – can have similar consequences.


TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is condition in which the “hinge” which connects the upper and lower jaw isn’t working as it should. (This hinge is one of the most complex joints in the body, responsible for moving the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side.) TMJ often occurs when the jaw is clenched for prolonged periods of time. Some of the most common symptoms are headaches, jaw pain, and tenderness in muscles of the jaw.

Periodontal disease

Over the long term, stress can weaken your body’s immune system. If your immune system can’t fight off the bacteria present in your mouth, it could lead to periodontal disease, which could eventually result in bone and tooth loss.

Canker sores

While they may be harmless, canker sores certainly aren’t painless. And they tend to surface during stressful periods. Researchers haven’t yet found the exact correlation between canker sores and stress, however, they suspect the link has to do with a suppressed immune system.

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, hair, nails and mucous membranes, including those in your mouth. It is characterized by white lines, sores, and ulcers in the oral cavity. It is an autoimmune disorder which occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks cells of the skin or mucous membranes. Some experts believe lichen planus is a reaction to viral infections caused by stress.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth doesn’t seem like it should be an alarming condition. But in reality, it can eventually lead to tooth decay and serious periodontal disease because the body isn’t producing enough saliva to wash away harmful bacteria. Dry mouth can be caused by stress, but it can also be caused by medications taken for depression.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Psychological problems including stress are just one of the many factors known to cause Burning Mouth Syndrome, which is identified by a burning sensation on the tongue, lips, gums or palate. The pain, which can be constant or intermittent, can last for months or even years.

What Can You Do About the Dental Effects of Stress?

First and foremost, it’s important to talk to your medical professionals – doctors, dentists, and mental health specialists – about your stress and how to handle it.

Other ways you can manage your stress levels are:

  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, or make the time to enjoy your favorite hobby.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Keep healthy, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate stress and anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stressful routines.

For dental issues, such as teeth grinding or TMJ, talk to your dentist about mouth guards. If you’re experiencing canker sores or lichen planus, consider adding vitamin supplements, like B-12, calcium, or folic acid to your diet. If dry mouth is an issue, make sure you’re getting plenty of water; you can also talk to your dental professional about mouth rinses which can alleviate the problem.


Set Up an Appointment with Pointe Dental Group!

If you’re concerned about how stress may be affecting your dental health, our team of experts are here to help. Contact us today at one of our two convenient locations!

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

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