How Does Your Mouth Handle Stress?

girl stressed out over her studiesThe negative health effects of excessive, prolonged stress are well-known and often discussed. The human stress reaction is a primitive defense mechanism that temporarily places your body on high alert, increasing your awareness and reaction time. Historically, this reaction may have saved many lives threatened by harm from natural dangers. Today, wild animals and the like rarely threaten our wellbeing, but many everyday stressors can make our minds and bodies feel as though they are under attack, triggering the stress response and taxing your physical health. As a dedicated dentist in Polk City, Dr. Ryan Hussong knows that excessive stress can also have a number of negative effects on your dental, health as well.

The Dental Effects of Prolonged Stress

People often clench and/or grind their teeth during moments of anger, frustration, stress, or other negative emotions. The phenomenon is not obscure; your entire body can tense up during these moments, and your jaw muscles are no exception. Clenching your teeth once in a blue moon is typically not a reason for concern, but if your stress levels have been unusually high for a prolonged period of time, then habitual tooth grinding (called bruxism) can become a problem for your dental health. The undue exertion can damage your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, which connect your lower jaw to your skull. Damaged jaw joints can generate intense discomfort, which is known as TMJ disorder and can sometimes be debilitating. Aside from the pain of TMJ disorder, bruxism can also wear away your tooth’s enamel and structure. Compromised tooth enamel leaves your tooth vulnerable to decay, and as your tooth changes shape from excessive grinding, your bite can be thrown out of balance and be subject to myriad other dental issues associated with a misaligned bite (i.e., improper mouth function, increased discomfort, etc.).

Don’t Forget About Your Hygiene

If you’re stressed enough to grind your teeth into oblivion, then chances are that your mind is greatly preoccupied. This preoccupation can lead you to forget, or neglect, certain daily obligations, such as diligently brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day to control plaque and your risk of dental health issues. You cannot make your stress and anxiety magically disappear, but you can protect your oral health by remembering the importance of daily dental hygiene and adhering to it even when you’d rather concentrate on something else. To learn more about protecting your dental health, schedule a consultation with your Polk City dentist by calling Cornerstone Dental at (515) 984-6001. We serve families from Des Moines, Polk City, Ames, Ankeny, Alleman, Bondurant, Grimes, Johnston, and the surrounding communities.