How to manage the dental effects of stress


You know that feeling when you're late for work, a family member is unwell, or those days where you think "there simply aren't enough hours in the day!" – your heart rate increases, you receive a boost of adrenaline and your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol.

By Cathryn Madden, Head Dentist at Bupa Dental.

This is your stress response kicking into gear, preparing you to effectively manage an event you perceive as stressful. This is something we can all relate to on some level, particularly over the past year with COVID-19 interrupting our normal routines.

How do we experience stress?

We experience stress in many ways, with everyone having their own unique experiences relating to our thoughts (eg "I'm overwhelmed"), our emotions (eg feeling irritable, afraid, or worried), and our behaviours (eg withdrawing from people or feeling unfocused or indecisive).

How can stress affect our oral health?

Another common symptom of stress can include teeth grinding or jaw clenching, something you may be doing unknowingly.

While teeth grinding and jaw clenching doesn't always result in tell-tale symptoms, some people do experience facial pain, headaches and stiffness in the jaw joint. Over time, grinding and jaw clenching can wear our teeth down, leading to sensitivity and even tooth loss.

What can you do?

If your teeth are feeling worn or sensitive, your jaw, face or ear is painful, or if your partner says you make a grinding sound in your sleep it is a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist. They will check your teeth and jaw and may recommend a custom occlusal splint that can help to reduce the sensation of clenching or grinding your teeth and helps to reduce pain and prevent tooth wear, as well as protecting against further damage.

If you suspect your teeth grinding or jaw clenching is related to stress it’s also vital you seek support from your GP, counselling support service or friends and family who can recommend strategies to reduce stress.

To find a Bupa dentist near you visit here.