How Stress Can Affect Your Dental Health

dentistry CharlottesvilleStress has profound effects on the body. During times of stress, emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger take a toll on a person’s health. It is common knowledge that prolonged stress can affect the cardiovascular system as well as immunity to disease but many are unaware that stress affects dental health, too. In fact, stress can manifest behaviors that are destructive to teeth and gums to the point that patients require restorative dentistry procedures to repair damage to oral structures.

Stress and Your Dental Health

Professionals in dentistry have long recognized the impact stress has on oral health. For instance, during oral examinations, if the teeth appear worn down—a dentist or oral surgeon may ask if a patient grinds his or her teeth. Stressful situations leave many feeling overwhelming emotions that manifest into physical behaviors. Bruxism, the act of clenching or grinding one’s teeth is a common physical manifestation of stressful emotions. Grinding and clenching teeth may seem benign at first, but with time, this behavior typically becomes habitual and many will grind and clench their teeth during sleep.


Bruxism affects oral health in many ways. First, the upper and lower sets of teeth unnecessarily scraping against one another wears cracks in tooth enamel. Damaged enamel will lead to teeth becoming worn down and worn down teeth are susceptible to cracking and decay. Habitual grinding and clenching can also irritate the gums.

TMJ Disorder

Another way that stress and bruxism affect oral health is by contributing to TMJ dysfunction. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located on each side of the jaw just underneath the earlobes. This joint facilitates mouth movement and when strained by clenching and/or grinding, it can impair a patient’s ability to chew or speak. TMJ disorder also leads to discomfort and pain, normally in the form of jaw tenderness, headaches, and facial soreness.

For those suffering with impaired oral function due to TMJ disorder and malocclusions caused by bruxism, our oral surgeon offers treatment. Some patients may benefit from reconstructive and corrective jaw surgery.

To learn more or to schedule an examination at our practice, call our Charlottesville office today.