Reducing Stress Can Also Reduce Tooth Problems

Today is National Stress Awareness Day–a time to try new stress relief techniques, learn about the effects of stress, and most importantly, to reduce your stress. Stress can have negative impacts on your entire body, your mouth included. For example, jaw soreness, teeth sensitivity, cavities, and gum disease can all be signs of increased stress. Below we go over some of these negative impacts, and 5 easy and fun tips to reduce stress.

 Taking Stress Out on Your Teeth

Without realizing it, you may be taking your stress out on your teeth in a variety of ways.

  1. Not brushing and flossing as much: this may seem obvious, but it can be something that’s easily overlooked. If we’re stressed because of a deadline at work, we may be working late, and our regular routine can be affected. If stress is causing us to take more late-night snacks (see below), we may not brush again afterward. Lastly, just being stressed in general can cause us to be more distracted or preoccupied, and not feel we have time for ourselves. First thing to go? Brushing and flossing.
  2. Stress Eating: Many of us eat more when we’re stressed. Some go for salty (a bag of chips, one pretzel rod after the other) while others prefer sweet (pint[s?] of ice cream, gummy bears, and the big one–chocolate). Unless you are so good that you brush after every snack (and you might!) then this additional stress eating is giving the bacteria in your mouth new fuel for cavities and decay.
  3. Grinding at Night: Stress can cause you to grind your teeth. Over 20% of adults grind their teeth during the day, and half of those people also grind at night. When we’re stressed, we frequently do both. Grinding at night exerts the most force–over 250 pounds of force per square inch. This can wreak havoc on your teeth, not to mention cause you jaw soreness and pain. For more info on grinding, read our post here.

How to Reduce Stress

There are a lot of ways to reduce stress ( for example, we found this list of 100 items!). After some heavy duty research, here are our favorites:

  1. Eat & Drink Stress-Reducing Items: Certain food and drink items contain minerals that can help you lower your stress hormones, like cortisol, or your blood pressure. Foods high in magnesium and potassium, like oatmeal, are great for this. Also try to increase your Vitamin C with orange juice, broccoli and other greens.
  2. Chew Gum: Okay, of course we like this one because it also helps to fight cavities. But that’s great for you, too! Chewing gum (SUGARLESS gum, obviously) was shown in this study to lower levels of anxiety, and increase ability to multi-task.
  3. Laugh Loud and Laugh Lots: laughter time and time again is shown to help relax us. So go watch a comedy in the evening, see a funny film, or pick up an easy-read comedian book.
  4. Massage Your Earlobes: Weird, but true. Your earlobes are one of your body’s pressure points and massaging them can cause physical calmness and relaxation.
  5. Walk it Off: Take a walk during your lunch break. And yes, this means that you take an actual lunch break. Having a breather from the work day can help you reduce stress and refocus. Taking a walk (no excuse now that the weather is nice!) will provide you with some exercise, increasing endorphins and reducing stress.

There you have it! Follow those tips and your teeth (and rest of your body) will thank you!