A little while ago, we wroteabout how the bacteria in your mouth can affect your mental health. Researchers have found links between periodontal disease and neurodegeneration. But, your mouth can also give intricate details about your emotional state as well. Did you know a dentist can tell you are stressed out?
Your dentist is amazing! We naturally agree with this statement…but it is oh so true! They can predict other health problems just by what they see in your mouth. A dentist can tell you are stressed out by three major signs – TMJ/TMD, canker sores, and bruxism (grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw). However, stress can cause even more issues. Scientific studies are starting to find links between stress and dental cavities and periodontal disease. How can stress cause cavities? It comes down to the effects of stress on the body’s different systems, especially the immune system.
Researchers, Michele Reners and Michel Brecx, found that when stress weakened the immune system, an imbalance was created “between the host and its parasites resulting in periodontal breakdown.”They also found that under stress, saliva production is decreased causing increases in dental plaque. Your saliva is one of the biomechanical ways your body rids itself of dental microorganisms. The saliva washes the microbes into the stomach where the highly acidic environment kills them and then excretes them.
The researchers also found that emotional states such as depression and anxiety can create an imbalance. For people feeling depressed and socially isolated, more aggressive forms of periodontitis was found. Of course, anxiety and depression can lead to other behaviors such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking which can in turn lead to periodontal issues.
At Tufts University, an ongoing study is also investigating the relationship between stress and periodontal disease.They have found that chronic stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol in the blood. The high levels of cortisol cause widespread inflammation. In the gums, this inflammation is the beginning stages of gum disease.
Most dentists know that stress can also lead to people lapsing on their daily dental hygiene and this can lead to progressive gum disease issues. Dentists are starting to look at more than whether you brush and floss twice daily. They are taking a more holistic approach to their patients in order to help them keep their beautiful smiles for years to come.