Life has become very stressful now-a-days. Our body has natural tendency to withstand acute stress we face daily. It has inbuilt mechanism to cope up with stress on daily basis by regulating the secretion of hormones associated with stress. However, long standing stress can be deteriorating to overall well-being and your oral health is no exception.
How Does Our Body React to Stress?
Stress may be contributing or precipitating factor of various oral health issues like teeth grinding, gum diseases, dry mouth and canker sores. Stressful person often ignores oral health routine and balanced diet—increasing risk of tooth decay.
When we receive disturbing and stressful stimulus, our body tends to set a cascade of reactions to combat fearful and stressful condition in the following ways:
1. When you feel something fearful, disturbing , a nerve signal is generated and your body sends this message to your brain.
2. Signal is sent to Amgydala- region of brain which deals with decision-making capability and the regulation of emotions. The amygdala in turn alerts the hypothalamus, which controls hormone production.
3. The fast-acting part of the nervous system releases adrenaline or epinephrine. Meanwhile, the hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormone responsible for production of the stress hormone – Cortisol.
4. Cortisol , Adrenaline and other chemicals thus formed enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
5. Body almost in all organs in all organs and tissues—are studded with proteins called glucocorticoid receptors which recognises cortisol, adrenaline or other chemicals released in stress. All the receptors are designated a particular task.
6. Cortisol boosts blood sugar, Epinephrine increases heart rate, increasing the oxygen flowing into major muscles.
Result of Stress in our Oral Health
Clenching and grinding teeth together can damage teeth and associated structures. A person may clench teeth in aroused or mentally active status in daytime or may grind teeth in sleep. Daytime clenching is called as Bruxomania. You may feel pain or soreness in the jaw region when you wake up, soreness of teeth and gums, pain in temple region, damage to the temporomandipular joint (TMJ), the joint in front of the ala of the ear. Constant grinding of teeth may lead to fractures of enamel may prone your teeth to caries.Your dentist may recommend a night guard to protect your teeth from damage.
Researches has shown that emotional stress can modulate the immune system through the neural and endocrine systems which may modify the immune response to microbial challenge- an important defense against inflammatory periodontal disease.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Stress may decrease the amount of saliva produced in mouth. Saliva is very important for overall health of oral tissues. Main function of saliva are digestion, lubrication and defensive. Emotional stress may also produce changes in saliva pH and chemical composition like IgA secretion (defensive agent in saliva). The changes in quality and quantity of saliva can increase risk of tooth decay, gum disease and oral infection.
Canker sores or commonly known as mouth ulcers (tiny white to off white base with red margins found on the soft tissue of the mouth) are harmless but can be painful and may make eating difficult. They will usually go away on their own within 1-2 weeks or your dentist may prescribe a topical treatment or rinse.
Being under extreme stress may affect your mood and cause you to skip brushing, flossing, and rinsing. A neglected oral health routine, unhealthy lifestyle choices and conditions such as dry mouth increase your risk of tooth decay.
TMD: Temporomandibular Disorder
TMD refers to variety of conditions that affect jaw joints, jaw muscles and facial nerves. TMD may occur when the jaw twists during opening, closing or side-motion movements. People with TMD may experience pain in or around the ear, headaches and neck aches, tenderness of the jaw or jaw muscles, jaw pain or soreness that is more prevalent in the morning or late afternoon, jaw pain when chewing, biting or yawning, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth, and sensitive teeth.