There’s no doubt about it: the holidays are stressful. Whether you dread this time of year or look forward to it, the holiday season creates a certain amount of stress in almost everyone. Most of us know that stress can impact our overall health, but did you know that stress also has negative effects on our oral health? What follows are a few ways in which stress can impact your teeth and gums, and how to treat each one.

  • Bruxism – Teeth grinding, also referred to as Bruxism, is one of the most common ways that stress impacts our oral health. Most people who suffer from Bruxism grind their teeth while they sleep and may not even know they’re doing it. Clenching your jaw and/or bruxism can wear down your teeth, cause headaches, and lead to a sore jaw, along with other issues. If you think you might be grinding your teeth, wearing a mouth guard can help. Talk to your dentist to find out more.
  • Canker sores – Developing a canker sore is a common reaction to stress for some people. These small sores develop on the inside of the mouth, on either the cheeks or the gum tissue. While they can be painful, they’re not contagious and usually go away on their own within a week or so.
  • Dry mouth – When we are experiencing stress, we often produce less saliva than normal. That, combined with some holiday foods and drinks that further dehydrate our bodies – such as caffeine and alcohol, for example – can lead to chronic dry mouth. If you have a dry mouth and are tempted to just live with it, don’t! Dry mouth can easily lead to other dental issues, such as an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. So treat your dry mouth by drinking more water throughout the day; limiting your consumption of caffeine and alcohol; chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate the production of saliva inside your mouth; and/or using an over-the-counter mouthwash formulated for treating chronic dry mouth.

There may not be any way to completely avoid all the stress associated with the holidays, but there are ways effectively deal with it. Remember to take good care of yourself by engaging in stress-relieving exercises and activities, such as yoga, relaxation techniques, or meditation, for example. And if you experience any of these oral health issues as a result of stress and you can’t resolve the problem on your own, don’t hesitate to call your dentist for more help.