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How Does Stress Affect Our Teeth & Jaw?

Stress can also have serious effects on our oral health, which is also linked to our general health.
Stress can also have serious effects on our oral health, which is also linked to our general health.


So many things in our lives can cause stress! We may experience stress due to emotional or relationship changes or even due to postural stress from how we position ourselves during work or exercise. Stress can also result from bite and jaw issues. While our bodies are designed to handle short-term stress, prolonged or chronic stress can have major health consequences.

How Does Stress Affect Our Teeth & Jaw?

During stressful experiences, our adrenal glands release the stress hormones to facilitate our nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. This can be a good thing during a short-term stressful experience to help us cope, but if we are exposed to these hormones for long periods of time they can hinder our memory as well as heighten our susceptibility to depression.

Stress can majorly impact oral health, which is linked to our general health. 


Here are some of the ways stress can impact our oral health:

  • Tooth decay through decreased immunity and declining tooth hygiene
  • Gum disease caused by bacteria and abnormal immune response to inflammation
  • Bruxism (Grinding) from poor sleep quality and quantity
  • Disorders of the jaw joints, or TMJ disorders caused by muscle and joint stress

When stress causes repeated clenching of your jaw, it can lead to temporomandibular (TMD) disorders which involve the jaw joints. TMD disorders result in chronic pain and popping or clicking of the jaw. When not treated, TMD disorders can have a big on our oral health.

A vicious cycle

Stress and declining oral health are part of a vicious cycle. Experiencing stress can be the cause of many teeth, mouth, gum or jaw problems, but ongoing chronic oral health problems can actually lead to more stress which then exacerbates the existing issue. It’s, therefore, crucial to deal with the sources of stress in your life before they can have a chance to impact your oral health.

If stress has already caused oral health issues for you, it’s vital that you work with your dentist to work out how to successfully treat them and further preventative measures so that you don’t find yourself stuck in this endless cycle of stress and poor oral health.

As well as seeing your GP to look after your physical health and obtain referrals for any psychological treatment required to deal with your chronic stress, it’s also vital to regularly see your dentist for routine exams and tooth cleaning. This is the best thing you can do to help guard against stress-related oral health problems occurring. At your examination your dentist will test all your teeth for mobility and make sure your teeth aren’t hitting one another more than they should be. They will also make sure that there is no sign of gum disease or jaw joint disorder (TMD).

Most importantly, your dentist will be able to take action if they find any dental problems. Knowing your dentist is on top of your oral health will provide a source of stress relief in itself, helping to break that vicious cycle of stress and ill health.


Okanagan Dentistry is a Kelowna-based dental office dedicated to providing the highest quality of dental care. Our unique family-oriented approach ensures that everyone receives the highest level of care and that we are continually improving lives through dentistry. Contact us today!