We probably all know that stress can affect our health in many negative ways. Stomach problems, headaches and migraines and sleep problems are all typical side effects of stress. But you may not know that stress can have a very negative effect on the health of your teeth. Stress can cause many problems in your mouth and even lead to tooth loss and the painful TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome.

The most visible mouth problems that can be triggered by stress are canker sores and fever blisters. Canker sores are small grey or white ulcers that appear in the mouth. They are not contagious, but they can be painful and embarrassing. No one really knows what they are, but dentists and doctors know that they can be triggered by stress. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by a virus that lives in the body. This virus is called herpes simplex and outbreaks are contagious. They are small clusters of water-filled blisters that can appear around or in the mouth. Herpes simplex is often triggered by stress and the lack of sleep. There are some treatments available, and you should go to your dentist as soon as you see an outbreak of either.

Another tooth and nutrition problem caused by stress is tooth-grinding and/or clenching of the jaw (also known as bruxism). This is common when you are stressed, and you can grind your jaw in your sleep. Often done unconsciously, you can do this when you are awake as well. If you already clench your jaw, stress can make it much worse. It can lead to the wearing down of your molars, and cracking or fracturing of your teeth.

A big problem with grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw is that it can lead to a syndrome called TMJ. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint which is your jaw joint. Excessive clenching or tooth grinding can lead to a very painful condition. You get pain in your jaw, your face and even your ear. If you are clenching your jaw or have a tooth-grinding problem, you should see your dentist right away.

Another way that stress can lead to dental problems is simply not taking care of your teeth because of sadness, stress or depression. It gets hard to take care of everyday things when you are stressed out, and you may let your oral hygiene go. You may also stop seeing your dentist for your regular check-ups.

Some anti-depression drugs and drugs for the treatment of stress can lead to dry mouth. Dry mouth can contribute to dental problems as well. If you are prescribed drugs for stress or depression and experience a dry mouth, you should see your dentist to discuss what can be done about it. Saliva is important in the prevention of tooth decay and a dry mouth should not be ignored.

Do your best to work through whatever is stressing you. Seek professional help if you need it. The effects on all parts of your body, including your teeth, can be devastating.