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Stress is almost unavoidable in life. It also contributes to many serious health problems, including heart disease and high blood pressure, but many people don’t realize that it can affect your teeth as well. One of the reasons why is that when you are stressed, there can be a tendency to grind or clench your teeth. Called bruxism, this often occurs during sleep. The symptoms include a sore jaw, sensitive teeth, and wearing down of the tips of the enamel.

Other Oral Impacts from Stress

Gum disease is another possibility if you are under a lot of stress. The likelihood of gingivitis is higher and progresses if not treated. If you notice red, swollen gums and they bleed often, it’s a sign of gum disease. Once this progresses to periodontitis, the gums pull away from your teeth leaving pockets for bacteria to fester. Don’t allow stress to affect your gums, and don’t neglect oral hygiene if life is getting to you.

Constantly clenching your teeth can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ. You’ll feel sore jaw muscles and your jaw might pop and click when you move it. Moving it up and down can be extremely painful.

Dry mouth is another condition caused by stress. One theory is that, when under stress, people tend to breath more through their mouth, and the air tends to dry things out. Some stress medications cause dry mouth as a side effect. Anything that decreases saliva production will trigger a lack of moisture, which can make it difficult to swallow and increases the risk of cavities.

Increased Risk of Infection

The immune system weakens when the body is subject to too much stress. This can mean you’re more likely to get infections in your mouth. Good oral hygiene and a diet rich in foods that boost immunity can counteract this risk. Mouth ulcers called canker sores are more likely if you’re stressed, studies have shown. They can happen if you chew on your cheeks or tongue, or clean your teeth too roughly. Although often treatable with home remedies, canker sores can be bad enough to demand medical attention.

Avoiding stress-related dental problems can be challenging. You can try stress-reduction techniques, but sometimes adjusting your schedule can be enough to give you more time to settle down during the day. Best of all, stay on top of oral hygiene and the potential impacts stress can have on your teeth.