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Stress and Your Smile

February 3, 2016

We all encounter stress in our lives, whether it’s from school or work, stress can have damaging effects on your body. Your mouth is not immune to the effects of stress and sometimes it can even have an impact on your orthodontic appliances. Researchers have found significant links between stress and oral health, which helps us to better understand how anxiety and depression can exasperate dental problems. As your Jacksonville orthodontist, we know that limiting your stress will improve your overall well being and the success of your orthodontic treatment.

While you may think that stress only affects the way you feel, think again. Stress can lead to the following oral health issues:

  • Bruxism: Stress can cause you to grind your jaw at night, which can really damage your teeth and your braces. You may not even know if you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep, but if you already have a bad habit of clenching and grinding your jaw, stress can make it even worse. If you find that grind your teeth, wearing a mouthguard at night can keep you from damaging your orthodontic appliances and protect your jaw from issues such as TMJ. During the day, try and focus on keeping your teeth separated.
  • Canker Sores: Although canker sores are harmless, they can be painful. Stress can contribute to the onset of canker sores, which are small spots with a white base and reddish border. While researchers aren’t certain about what causes canker sores, they believe that it may have something to do with a lowered immune system or a virus, both of which are more likely to affect your body when you’re stressed. To avoid pain, use wax on your braces where they come in contact with your canker sores, avoid spicy foods, and consider an over-the-counter numbing medicine.
  • Dry Mouth: Stress and certain medications can cause dry mouth. When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, you can experience chronic dryness which can lead to discomfort and bad breath. While you may not think that dry mouth can have an impact on your orthodontic treatment, it can make your appliances more uncomfortable and painful than necessary.
  • TMJ/TMD: Chronic jaw pain is a common side effect of stress and anxiety. Clicking and popping from your jaw can be uncomfortable and annoying and stress can trigger these issues. Your orthodontic treatment will address any issues you may have with jaw alignment, so keeping your stress under control will help you avoid jaw pain and may even make you jaw alignment process easier.
  • Gum Disease: The long term effects of stress can have a detrimental impact on your immune system and can lead to periodontal disease. Having braces already requires extra attention on your oral hygiene and can make it easier for food particles to get stuck in your teeth and braces. These food particles contribute to plaque buildup and tartar wear, which leads to periodontal disease. Keeping up with your flossing and brushing is essential to avoiding gum disease, such as gingivitis.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene: When you’re stressed, it can be easy to let your brushing and flossing fall by the wayside. Additionally, stress often causes us to turn to poor diets that are full of sugar and frequent snacking. The combination of poor oral hygiene and extra sugar and snacks in your diet will increase your risk of cavities, gingivitis, and tooth decay. Each of these problems can leave stains and damage on your teeth that is irreversible when your braces come off. Both oral hygiene and diet are key elements of your orthodontic treatment.

If you’re feeling stressed, don’t neglect your oral hygiene and talk to your orthodontist at your next visit. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress, but turning to healthy methods of stress relief is key to your overall health and wellbeing. Whether running, practicing yoga, painting, spending time with friends, or listening to music helps you relax, be sure to take time to unwind and focus on your mental well being when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

At Ortega Orthodontics, we’re in the business of building smiles to impress! We want you to feel confident in your healthy and straight smile, which is why keeping up with your oral hygiene and listening to your orthodontist’s consumption advice is so important. To discuss your options for achieving your dream smile and to schedule an appointment, contact us today!

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