How does stress affect oral health?

Studies show that stress has been linked to gum disease. Watch as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell explains how to cut down on stress and start smiling.


Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Stress can contribute significantly to a number of oral health problems which include:

  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and myofacial pain dysfunction (MPD): Stress makes our jaw do all kinds of dangerous dances of clenching and grinding. The more tension you have, the more you do it. These types of abnormal jaw positioning often begin as myofacial pain disorder (MPD) and develop into temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), both of which are stress-related. Such disorders begin with jaw tightness, muscle soreness and pain. If not treated, they can lead to internal displacement, which disrupts the alignment of the disc that separates the lower jaw from the upper jaw (temporomandicular joint). If you clench or grind your teeth, have your dentist fit you for a night guard and evaluate your bite.
  • Viral infection: Such infection is a direct result of a depressed immune response, in which stress often plays a role.
  • Aphthous Ulcers (canker sores): There are different theories about what triggers aphthous ulcers, more commonly known as canker sores. The fact of the matter is that there are many: depressed immune response, improper nutrition, trauma from dental work. But the one thing these culprits have in common is that they’re all stress-induced in one way or another. If you find yourself getting one canker sore after another, crank up your supply of vitamin B12, avoid hot foods and ask your dentist to prescribe a topical cream to ease the condition.
  • Type 1 Herpes lesions: Another condition that stems from a depressed immune response, herpes lesions appear on the gingival area. Again, lowering your stress levels will greatly help.
Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

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Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

Renowned dentist and creator of the GoSMILE product line Dr. Levine offers this complete guide to getting a whiter, brighter smile. 15 photos & illustrations.

Stress in our culture is so underestimated as a source of health problems and oral health is no exception. There are a number of connections between stress and oral health:

  1. Joint problems leading to headaches, jaw, back and neck pain. During the day or at night, we can clench or grind our teeth that wear down or break teeth or cause the above mentioned pain.
  2. Oral lesions such as canker and cold sores. These can be painful and occur singularly or in multiple locations.

There are various treatments to help you with these conditions. Having a discussion with your dentist can bring you some much needed relief.

Stress can contribute to teeth grinding or bruxism, enamel wear, jaw soreness, transmandibular disorders (TMD), canker sores, and cold sores, among other dental and oral health problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.