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5 Ways Stress Impacts Your Teeth and Gums

person nervously biting their nailsIf you’re naturally a more anxious or worried person, you’re fully aware of how it impacts your wellbeing and daily life. Were you also aware of how your mood affects the health of your teeth and gums? Recent research has connected chronic stress with declining oral health. Your body develops various coping mechanisms, like teeth grinding and unconscious nail-biting, to handle your emotions. These can impact your oral health in a variety of ways, leaving your pearly whites vulnerable to harmful oral bacteria and the development of issues like cavities. Read on to find out how to protect teeth when you’re stressed.


Nail-biting is a habit that an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the population has. It’s dirty and gross, but it’s one common way that people handle stress, worry, and anxiety. It can also have serious ramifications for our oral health, including:

  • The transferring of germs to your mouth, causing infections.
  • The transferring of viruses that can make you ill.
  • Warts spreading from your hands to your mouth.

Not to mention, nail-biting can also cause you to accidentally chip or damage a tooth, resulting in an unexpected visit to your emergency dentist.

Mouth Ulcers

Stress can deplete your body of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B. Without this, you may develop painful mouth ulcers that are red or yellow in color. Large ones can be severely uncomfortable and take weeks to heal, making it difficult to swallow and eat food. Such tenderness can also make it hard to keep your mouth clean by brushing and flossing, allowing plaque and bacteria buildup in your mouth.

TMJ Disorder

Overusing your jaw when you’re stressed due to developing habits like grinding and clenching your teeth can cause you to develop temporomandibular joint disorder. The jaw will become stiff and swollen, making it difficult to do basic tasks like chew food. Some other symptoms of TMD include:

  • Tenderness in jaw
  • Aching pain around ears
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth due to joint locking

Teeth Grinding

One of the most commonly known oral consequences of stress is bruxism, or chronic clenching and grinding of the teeth. This condition can cause your teeth excessive wear-and-tear and force your jaw to sustain significant force. Because it typically occurs when you’re asleep, it can be difficult to diagnose without the testimony of your partner, so be on the lookout for other common symptoms like dull headaches and chronic jaw pain.

Gum Infections

Constantly being stressed impacts your immune system’s ability to fight off oral infections that can cause tooth decay, tooth loss, and inflamed gums. When harmful oral bacteria aren’t regularly fought off, they begin to release substances like acid and toxins that result in enamel erosion and irritated and bleeding gums.

There’s no simple solution to keep you from feeling stressed or filled with anxiety. However, there are ways you can protect your mouth from being harmed because of it. When you keep up with your oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings, you won’t need to worry about damaging your teeth and gums on top of everything else that’s on your mind.

About the Author

Dr. Greg Ritchie has been practicing dentistry for over 18 years. He finished a one-year residency after he graduated where he received special training in sedation dentistry, implants, and various cosmetic procedures. With his vast knowledge and extensive experience, he’s able to provide all of his patients with great preventive dental care that helps them avoid developing serious oral health problems down the road. For questions or to schedule a routine checkup and cleaning, visit Ritchie Dental Group’s website or call 830-693-8833.


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