Stress Awareness Month – Dental Concerns

How does stress affect our oral health and what can we do to minimise its impact?

Stressed patientThis April marks the 30 year milestone of Stress Awareness Month. This anniversary couldn’t have come at a more apt time, with more people suffering from stress and anxiety than ever.

There are few of us who don’t long for the day when we turn on the news and something good has happened for a change, and there will also always be those who are going through personal stresses due to things like divorce and illness etc.

It is good to be aware of stress and discover how we can manage it more effectively and minimise it where possible. That is for the experts though and at the Foxhall Dental Practice, we thought that we would attempt to play our part by pointing out some of the harm that stress and anxiety can cause to the oral health of our Ipswich patients.

Gum disease

When we are stressed or anxious about something, it can feel all consuming. Unless the stress levels are extremely high though, we are usually able to function in our daily lives, albeit at a less focussed level. We may be able to do our job but not as well as we normally would as our focus is elsewhere, or perhaps it is your job that is causing the stress? In this situation, something usually gives. In some cases, people start to drink more or ‘comfort eat’ to deal with the stress and ignore the fact that these could cause health issues later on.

This can also apply to the way that we look after our teeth. Whilst most people will still brush their teeth when they are stressed, they are less likely to be focussed whilst doing so and may give their teeth a shorter, more cursory brushing than they normally would. If this continues for any length of time, bacteria are likely to build up on the teeth and the gum line. Eventually, your gums might start to feel tender or even bleed when you brush your teeth. This is a likely sign of gum disease and you should contact your dentist for an appointment.

Tooth decay

Similarly, sub-standard cleaning of the teeth is more likely to lead to tooth decay. This is even more likely when, as mentioned above, people turn to comfort eating to deal with stress and anxiety. Given that the foods consumed are unlikely to be healthy fruit and vegetables and more likely to be cakes and biscuits etc, it isn’t hard to see how the increase in sugar consumption greatly increases the risk of tooth decay. A rotting tooth may well result in a painful toothache and the need for a dental procedure such as a filling, or even an extraction. Not only are these best avoided in all situations, but if you are already stressed and an anxious patient, this will most likely only serve to increase your stress levels even more.


One of the most catastrophic results of stress and anxiety on your teeth is caused by a relatively common problem, and that is bruxism, or teeth grinding. This can be very difficult to control as it usually happens when we are asleep and unable to do anything about it. Over time, bruxism can result in the wearing down of enamel, increasing the risk of tooth decay and tooth sensitivity and even breaking of teeth where they are already compromised, or possibly of healthy teeth where the degree of force used is high.

As bruxism is widely regarded as being primarily caused by stress, the best way to minimise this risk to your teeth is to reduce your stress levels. Some people are able to do this through relaxation techniques etc but, as we are dentists and not stress therapists, it is probably better that we advise people to take a look at the Stress Awareness website where more detailed information is available.

Maintaining oral health when stressed

Although there are many things that you can do yourself to make sure that you don’t add poor oral health to your list of stress factors, please remember that our Ipswich dental team are here to help you too. Providing that you make sure to keep your regular check up appointments and also see the dental hygienist every six months, we should be able to help you minimise the risks to your teeth and gums during stressed periods of your life.

Where damage has occurred, there are a wide range of treatments that can help to restore your teeth, whether this be fillings, crowns or even porcelain veneers or tooth implants. We aim to help you have a healthy and functional set of teeth.

If you would like to discuss your oral health with us, whether suffering from stress or not, we are happy to see you. We currently have private patient check ups available and you can book yours, or see a dentist for another reason, by calling the Foxhall Dental Practice on 01473 258396.