The human body has a natural response to stressful situations, such as exercise or competition. This response is triggered by hormones and is called “fight or flight.” The body releases adrenaline and endorphins, which produce energy, strength, and heightened awareness. When the body experiences prolonged periods of stress, it responds by releasing cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that inhibits the growth of new tissue and is highly immunosuppressive. Its effects make the immune system less effective at fighting off viruses and bacteria, which allows diseases to affect the oral tissues.
Prolonged exposure to cortisol prevents damaged cells from being repaired, causing them to build up on the surface of the teeth. As a result, the gums can become inflamed, red and can bleed easily. Over time, eating hard foods can cause the buildup to break away as small bits of tartar that are impossible to remove with at-home remedies. Professional cleaning is the only way to remove the buildup and restore the health of the mouth. Regular professional cleanings can also help to prevent gum disease caused by inflammation.
Stress is the body’s response to something that causes it to go into defense mode, whether that’s physical or emotional in nature. The body recognizes the situation as a threat and prepares to fight it off. These systems include hormones that increase blood pressure and send blood to the muscles for use in a fight-or-flight response. This can result in an increase in heart rate and breathing rate as well. Some common symptoms of stress can include increased sweating, nausea, muscle tension and fatigue. All of that can take a toll on the body and contribute to more serious health conditions over time.
Although stress is common, and it’s not abnormal, it’s important that people take steps to minimize their stress to avoid overwhelming their bodies.
High levels of stress can lead to poor sleep habits, which can in turn lead to decreased saliva production, plaque accumulation on the teeth and decreased overall dental health as a result. By learning to manage stress levels, people can avoid these poor health consequences.
When the body feels any type of stress, the brain releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream to help manage the stressful situation. If you have prolonged exposure to stressful situations, this can result in health problems including depression, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It can also have a negative impact on your oral health.
When the mouth is under stress, the production of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to thoroughly remove food and other particles from the teeth after meals in order to promote good oral hygiene. Without this cleansing agent, bacteria may be left behind on the teeth which can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
To learn more about good oral care practices, get in touch with Dr. Steven Go of OC Dental Arts by calling us at (714) 779-7700.