Another school year just began, which means many students are hitting the books and letting their usual oral hygiene habits fall by the wayside. This is especially true during stressful exam weeks, when students often sleep less, consume more caffeine and tobacco, and experience a great amount of pressure and anxiety that can potentially cause dental health problems such as bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), and gum inflammation.
The Link Between Stress and Oral Health Problems
A recent study was conducted that examined the effect that academic stress has on gum health. Students were assessed four weeks prior to final exams, and again on the last day of exams. Out of all participants, 23% developed severe gingivitis over the four-week period. Gingivitis is an early phase of gum disease, which is a chronic bacterial infection of the periodontal (gum) tissue. Researchers believe the correlation between stress and gum disease is due to students neglecting their normal oral hygiene habits when they are under pressure. Bruxism (teeth grinding) often occurs due to high amounts of stress, as does TMJ disorder. Also, stress reduces the amount of saliva produced by the mouth, which increases the risk of tooth decay, as saliva normally protects teeth from decay by washing away harmful acids and bacteria that are responsible for cavities.
Good News for Students’ smiles
The health of your mouth is most at risk during peak periods of stress, when drastic behavioral changes are made. Because habits are usually altered for short periods of time, there should be few, if any, long-term consequences of stress on your oral health.
If you notice that you aren’t as studious when it comes to your oral health, just make sure that you bounce back from it by brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and attending regular six month checkups. To schedule your next appointment, contact Dental Associates of Riverside at (951) 369-1001.