Everyone experiences some form of stress in their life, but prolonged periods of intense stress can have a large impact on your oral health, especially if the stress is chronic. When your body perceives a threat or danger, it’s normal for it to release certain hormones and chemicals to help you respond to the threat. This response is known as the fight-or-flight reaction. Your body releases adrenaline, which prompts your blood vessels to constrict so that your muscles have extra blood flow and oxygen.
In a fight-or-flight situation, this kind of response is helpful for protecting you and can even save your life. However, chronic stress can cause this reaction to occur even when there is no actual threat present. As a result, you may begin to experience a weakened immune system and frequent illnesses. You may also notice changes in your mood, such as becoming depressed or anxious. You might also find that you’re experiencing headaches regularly. These symptoms can be an indication that you are suffering from chronic stress.
When your body registers stress, it also activates the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. These are two systems that work together to manage stress. The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that is responsible for controlling the pituitary gland; the pituitary regulates the body’s production of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. When the adrenal glands are activated, they release these hormones into the blood, which then travels to different parts of the body in order to manage the effects of the stress response. Unfortunately, when these systems activate on a regular basis, they can weaken your immune system and lead to other health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, frequent activation of these systems can affect your oral health and wellness. Common side effects of chronic stress include dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It can also trigger an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth due to an increase in the acidity of the mouth.
While it’s not clear exactly how chronic stress impacts oral health, it’s known that the stress hormone cortisol can weaken the immune system by impeding the flow of white blood cells to fight off an infection. As such, people with prolonged periods of stress and elevated cortisol levels may be at an increased risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay.
In addition, when an individual is feeling stressed, they may turn to habits that harm their teeth and gums, including smoking or consuming alcohol, which can lead to bad breath and discoloration. Other unhealthy behaviors include grinding their teeth, chewing on non-food items, and ignoring persistent toothaches. All of these habits can result in further damage to the teeth or gums.
If you notice any changes to your oral health, it’s important to see your general dentist as soon as possible to address the issue and prevent it from worsening.
When we’re stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is meant to be released into our bloodstream to provide energy for an emergency fight-or-flight situation. However, when constantly triggered, the cortisol levels in our body stay elevated and can cause a variety of health problems, including periodontal disease.
Since stress is unavoidable, the best way to combat the bad effects of stress is to try and manage it and eliminate it whenever possible. Some ways to prevent and manage stress include:
By reducing our stress levels with these techniques, we can help protect our overall health and wellness and avoid gum disease as well.
The next time you feel stressed out, try one of these techniques to help calm your nerves and relax. Your mouth will thank you for it!
For more information or to schedule an appointment for your dental treatments with the dentists at Signature Smiles, located in Louisville, give us a call at 502 326-1800 or visit our office today. We look forward to working with you soon!
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