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Graph of relax and stress

We’ve all heard the saying “that sets my teeth on edge”. We also can instantly picture someone clenching their jaw. But stress results in more than headaches or stomach aches. Unfortunately, stress can affect your teeth and oral health.

Demi Moore Told Jimmy Fallon About Losing Her Teeth

On June 13, 2017, Demi Moore explained to Jimmy Fallon that a photo of her without her front tooth was not “fake news”. It happened because she has clenched her jaw and the constant pressure caused the tooth to “shear off”. The internet was abuzz with debate over how stress could cause tooth loss. But dentists are not surprised.

Clenching Causes Many Issues

Clenching your teeth, either at night or during the day, can lead to a variety of issues. One possibility is that there can be abfractions in the teeth. Abfractions are notches at the gumline that are caused by bending forces applied to the tooth. This often happens as someone clenches their teeth. As the teeth meet, there is pressure –right or left, towards the tongue or away from the tongue — which causes the tooth to overtime show symptoms. Think of taking a handful of uncooked spaghetti. If you flex it back and forth, over time some of the pieces will crack. The root of your tooth is attached to a bone, and the top of the tooth is hard enamel. The part right at the gum line may eventually crack.

Another possibility is jaw or ear pain. When you clench or grind your teeth the muscles in the jaw do not get a chance to relax. Continued clenching can lead to jaw or ear pain. Please let Dr. Chiappetta or Dr. Haugstad know if your jaw muscles are sore, if your jaw pops or locks up, or if you have ear pain. Mouthguards that are worn at night can help to reduce the pain from TMJ.

Canker Sores and Fever Blisters

Stress lowers the immune system, and canker sores are often seen at times of great stress. These tiny gray or whitish ulcers that appear in the mouth are not contagious but are very annoying. Cold sores (or fever blisters) are contagious. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which lives in the body. The small, water-filled blisters around the mouth are itchy. Herpes simplex is triggered by a lack of sleep and stress.

Stress Causes Sleep Issues

Stress can contribute to sleep issues by making it hard to go to sleep. Sometimes this is because the body is in a heightened state of arousal, and sometimes because the brain just won’t “shut off”. Other times it becomes hard to stay asleep. If you are someone who clenches their jaw or grinds your teeth at night, then you might even wake yourself up clenching hard or grinding.

Stress Sometimes Leads to Poor Oral Hygiene

Increased amounts of stress can lead to smoking or tobacco use. If you have quit smoking in the past, increased times of stress are times that the urge to smoke increases. Large amounts of stress can cause sadness or depression. When depressed, often nutrition is poor and self-care like brushing your teeth is affected.

If you are under stress, recognize that it affects many aspects of your life, including your oral health. Talk to your dental team at Library Park Dental to find out how we can help you manage the symptoms of your stress.

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