Are You Stressed Out? Ask Your Dentist


The evidence may be right under your nose

Toronto, ON April 1 – Stress has become commonplace in today’s world, and if you want to know how much of an impact it has on us, just ask a dentist.

“I have definitely seen an increase in the number of cracked teeth, and cases of nocturnal bruxism [teeth grinding] and the associated signs and symptoms over the last several years.” says Dr. Gerald Smith, a Thunder Bay-area dentist and President of the Ontario Dental Association.

While it may be common knowledge that stress can cause high blood pressure and heart problems, people tend to overlook the effect stress has on their mouths. If left untreated, oral health conditions caused by stress can have a serious impact on your overall health and well-being.

April is Oral Health Month and Ontario’s dentists want you to pay a little more attention to your teeth. The oral signs and symptoms of chronic stress can be subtle, and you may not be aware until it’s too late. The ability to detect the signs of stress in your mouth makes your dentist the first line of defense.

The most common symptom is bruxism (tooth grinding or jaw clenching) which can wear down tooth surfaces over a long period of time. According to Dr. Smith, the tell-tale signs of bruxism are wearing down of enamel, fractured teeth and/or restorations or loose teeth. “The patient may experience soreness of the jaw, facial pain and headaches. More often than not, patients aren’t even aware that they clench their jaws, or they may grind their teeth during sleep.”

Bruxism is a major cause of temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which affects the jaw joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn. Your dentist can recommend specific treatments, depending on your symptoms. “A night guard or bruxism appliance may help in reducing the bruxism habit,” suggests Dr. Smith. “It certainly assists in protecting the teeth from damage caused by grinding and may also aid in reducing the associated TMD symptoms.”

If you think you are suffering from bruxism, don’t stress out – schedule a dental appointment. Only your dentist has the education and expertise to do an examination and can diagnose and help treat your stress-related oral health conditions. Your dentist can also offer advice on how to prevent your problems from getting worse.

“Although difficult, I tell my patients to try to manage the stress in their lives,” says Dr. Smith. “But maintaining a good oral health routine – brushing, flossing and regular dental examinations – is a good step in lessening the impact of stress on your mouth.”


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