What brought this topic on? Well, we’ve had several patients in for appointments lately that were experiencing symptoms like burning mouth and canker sores that they had never had before. After a long discussion and history, we discovered that an increase in their stress was likely one of the big factors in these new symptoms.
ACCORDING TO STATISTICS CANADA 73% OF ALL WORKING ADULTS AGES 20–64 REPORT AT LEAST SOME AMOUNT OF STRESS. We see it so often as many of our patients are working downtown in the oil & gas industry. Another group of people we see that commonly experience a lot of stress/oral health effects are university students, especially around exam time. While stress is a natural occurrence, excessive stress is a contributor to a host of mental and physical health problems, including oral health issues.
So, how/why does stress cause oral symptoms?
In times of excessive stress, dental care can be neglected, with individuals forgetting to brush or floss, and not visiting the dentist regularly. Increased plaque around the teeth and gums can lead to more cavities, gingivitis, and general discomfort/sensitivity. Other symptoms can include dry mouth (from medications used to manage stress-related conditions), burning mouth, sore and tense jaw muscles (from clenching and grinding), as well as canker and cold sores (because our immune system is reduced when we are under stress, leading to breakouts of these sores).
The Nova Scotia Dental Association made a great infographic summarizing this issue, check it out!