Can Stress Impact Our Oral Health?

At our Aloha family dentist office, Dr. Bronitsky wants to educate all of her patients on the importance of their oral health. Tooth decay and cavities impact the oral health of nearly everyone in the U.S. In fact, one study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that 91 percent of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 20 to 64 suffer from tooth decay and cavities in their permanent teeth. Cavities often require frequent dental visits for treatment and a lower overall quality of life, especially in patients where cavities require a permanent restoration, such as a crown or bridge, to treat.

Studies have also found cavities to cause a change in diet as patients consume softer foods that have a lower nutritional content; decreased social interactions due to anxiety over the appearance of their smile; trouble at work due to time missed because of dental pain; and a decrease in overall health. The significant impact that tooth decay and cavities can have on every aspect of our lives is why receiving preventative care at our Aloha family dentist office is so important to our patient’s long-term health.

Due to the prevalence of tooth decay, an extensive amount of research is currently being conducted by teams looking to further explore the different causes of cavities. Some recent studies have suggested that a potential link may exist between psychological factors such as stress, and the development of cavities. One of these studies, published in the journal Biomed Central: Oral Health, found some very interesting data on the link between stress and cavities.

Stress and Our Oral Health

As part of their study, researchers examined data collected on over 230 studies that had examined the impact stress had on the human body. Of this group, researchers identified six studies that stood out among the rest based on their sample size, assessment tools, experiment design, and method for collecting data.

Researchers then conducted a detailed cross analysis of these six studies focusing primarily on children between the ages of four to 14. While the methods used in each of these studies varied, they each measured participants stress levels by taking saliva samples. Cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone, can be measured in saliva.

The results of the study found a correlation between cortisol levels and the development of cavities in four of the six selected studies. However, the other two studies did not find any evidence of an association.

The studies showed that cortisol levels were higher in kids who were diagnosed with cavities when compared to those with healthy teeth. A number of the studies also found that the composition of participant’s saliva actually changed when exposed to higher levels of stress. Researchers concluded that the evidence showed enough to suggest that stress levels could impact the oral health of kids. However, more research is needed before a clear cause and effect relationship can be established. Additionally, more research is required to determine is stress has the same effect on the oral health of adults.

Protecting Our Oral Health

Whether an increased risk of cavities in kids dealing with stress or the development of poor nutrition in adults who have trouble eating, the link between our oral health and bodies is becoming clearer by the day.

Protecting our oral health requires making a commitment to three basic steps: brush twice a day, floss daily, and schedule regular exams and cleanings with Dr. Bronitsky at our Aloha family dentist office. By taking these simple, but incredibly important, steps, you can significantly improve your oral health now and into the future. Now that something to smile about.