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Stress and Your Dental Health

Nov 06, 2013

by Felicia Papier

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” croons Andy Williams.  But what if you have 25 people coming Thanksgiving Day, including Grandma Delores who insists that she bring the turkey?  And you know very well she’ll bring a dry little bird with just enough meat to feed only the dog. Yes… preparation for “Operation Extra Turkey & Everything Else” is about to put you over the edge. 

Stress levels are high over the holidays.  You may just want to pull your hair out and scream.  In fact, you open your mouth to let it all out and notice that your mouth is unusually tender and sore.  Uh oh.  Holiday stress has got you in a bind. 

This month, we will share how stress can affect your oral health and how you can stop those bad habits “cold turkey.” 

Did you know your dentist can always tell when you are stressed?  All you have to do is open your mouth. Of course, the baggy eyes, a scowl and the perpetual line in the middle of your forehead are also clues.  That “look” could be a sign that you are a new mom too… it’s a tossup. 

Here are four signs that your mouth is under holiday distress:

  • You’ve noticed that you have started grinding your teeth.  Well, you didn’t notice - your husband did.  You finally noticed when you asked why he slept on the couch last night.  Stress makes you clench your mouth tighter than normal which cause your teeth to grind.  This can lead to temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and can also wear down your tooth enamel.  See your dentist if this habit persists.  There are solutions they may have including mouth guards and even being screened for TMD.

  • YEE-OUCH!!!  Canker sores (or cranker sores as I called them when I was little) are absolutely no fun at all.  They make speaking, drinking and eating painful.  And isn’t that a big part of the holiday season?   Canker sores are mysterious little ulcers that form in pairs or groups on the soft tissue of your mouth.  No one knows what causes them, but we do know that an over-the-counter topical anesthetic can ease the pain and they should heal in a week to 10 days.

  • You should be concentrating on what to stuff your bird with instead of feeling like you’ve stuffed your mouth with cotton balls!  Dry mouth is another common side effect of stress.  Xerostomia, as it’s known in fancy circles, is caused by decreased saliva flow which, in turn, can be caused by increased amounts of caffeine consumption, smoking and basic dehydration.  Sounds like a holiday Molotov stress cocktail to me.  Consider increasing your daily H2O intake, sucking on hard candy (DO NOT bite it unless you want to end up at the dentist for a chipped tooth!), or simply breathing through your nose.

  • And you thought you were going to breathe fire when Great Aunt Molly told you she was inviting her bridge club to your T-giving meal, raising the attendee count to 35.  Seriously, though.  Your mouth is on fire.  Even though “burning mouth” is a complex condition caused by numerous things, extreme stress can invite this lovely monster to dinner as well.  It can cause erratic sleep patterns, dry mouth and poor eating habits since your mouth is too sore to eat anything but milkshakes. (Delicious, but not recommended.)  While not easily diagnosed on your own, your dentist will be able to recommend solutions and even medications that can stop burning mouth.

As a word of advice, schedule a dental cleaning in the middle of the holidays.  WHAT!? Yes, we know, you are busy.  But managing your dental health during a busy season is something that will save your sanity in the long run.  It will also keep your mouth from being sore during the times when you should enjoy your family and friends and smile the most! 

Thank you for joining us for another installment of Agent Straight-Talk.  We will see you next week, that is, if you aren't too terribly stressed!  And for a bit of stress-free fun, follow our boards on Pinterest where you can ease your mind with lots of cool information and crafty dental projects! 

Sources: WebMD, 1800Dentist.  Photo source:

Copyright 2013 Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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