Every day, so many of us just say “yes” to the stress—and we have to stop. Now. On an emotional, physical or financial level, stress can interfere with your momentum as you drive along the highway to good health. Whether it’s short or long term, major life changes or daily conflicts, one fact is certain: the impact of unmanaged stress on your health—and on your smile—is a big, big problem.
Major life changes may be either short or long term, and both impact your smile. These changes come in all shapes and sizes, like the loss of a relationship, a job, a promotion, a pet, a loved one and even divorce. It can be a sudden illness or medical emergency, surgery and recovery, or the responsibility of being a caregiver to an aging parent. Moving to a new area means a whole new range of changes, like finding new doctors, health insurance, endless calls or appointments, setting up utilities, and the worst of all, dealing with the DMV!
Daily conflicts, like running late for work, forgetting where your keys are, getting stuck in traffic, almost getting in an accident while driving, arguing with your partner, struggling to pay bills on time and dealing with drama at work and at home are all extremely stressful situations.
How stress impacts our bodies is an even bigger problem. Before we know what’s happened, we’re left to deal with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, a suppressed immune system, headaches and restlessness. Oh yes, unmanaged stress is nothing to smile about. Literally. In fact, it can leave your smile hurting in a number of ways. More specifically, we’re left grinding our teeth (bruxism), with sore, bleeding gums, and bad breath, and no one wants that.
Health Check: 3 Ways Stress Can Ruin Your Smile
Smile Risk 1: Grinding Teeth
When we’re stressed, we most likely clench our teeth together, and so when we’re sleeping, we do it subconsciously. It’s actually very common. It’s called bruxism and the impact is quite a load! Normal pressure from chewing is approximately 20 to 40 pounds. However, when we clench our teeth, it’s more like 250 pounds of pressure! This can contribute to TMJ problems, muscle soreness, a stiff neck and headache.
So, what’s the solution? That depends on the wear of your teeth.
Looking in the mirror, gently bite together and slowly move your jaw from one sire to the other. If you notice that the edges of your canine teeth are worn and fit in that unnatural jaw position, there’s a good chance you’re grinding your teeth without realizing it. There are treatment options available to help correct this stressful situation. These include being fitted for a custom mouth guard or splints, targeted massage to release the muscle’s tension and cool laser therapy.
Smile Risk 2: Bleeding Gums
No matter what you may have been told growing up, it isn’t normal—or good—for your gums to bleed. Why is it happening? Gingivitis and periodontal disease are the two most common reasons your gums will be both sore and bleeding. They’re not the only reasons, though. Not surprisingly. stress is another factor. Your body drives the stress hormone cortisol to wreak your immune system, which allows bacteria to invade your gums. The symptoms will feel like whiplash to your gums.
What’s the solution to stop stress from wrecking your gums?
Amp up your oral hygiene regimen. Use an electric toothbrush and an accompanying app to confirm you’re brushing all the surfaces of your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day. It’s also recommended to clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss piks or a water pik. You should make sure you are using toothpaste that focuses on reducing gingivitis—not on desensitizing or remineralizing. Any way you can remove bacteria is stress management for your gums, so do it.
Smile Risk 3: Bad Breath
Have you ever noticed how dry your mouth gets sometimes? That’s because stress reduces your saliva. Add on lifestyle risk factors like a poor diet, coffee, alcohol, smoking or vaping, and you can really take someone’s breath away—just not in the way you hope. Even medication for stress can be the culprits of bad breath.
How can you extinguish stress related bad breath before it impairs your self-esteem, intimacy and potential income?
Try chewing gum or mints with Xylitol during the day. You should also discuss which mouth rise ingredients are the best fit for the current state of your oral health with your dental hygienist.
Anastasia Turchetta is a health empowerment conversationalist with 30 years in the healthcare profession. She is the host of the popular Coffee ChatTM with Anastasia, where she delivers rich content about how to align your emotional, physical and financial health and lead a productive and successful life.