Stress can manifest in many ways, but did you know the increase in production of hormone cortisol affects the oral microbiome too?
Cortisol up-regulates our inflammatory responses in times of stress, which translates to greater incidence of gingivitis (early gum disease). Stress also slows saliva flow, not only impairing digestion, but impacting the delicate balance between the microbes in our mouths and ourselves. Saliva is our SECRET AGENT, containing several mechanisms to restrict microbial growth. It supports our immunity as well as protecting our teeth. This is one of the reasons the risk of gum disease is increased with stress and you are less likely to respond to therapy.
When we are stressed, we are also more likely to neglect our oral health habits, make poorer dietary choices and turn to habits like smoking or drinking that have a negative impact on our oral and overall health. Smoking is directly linked to significantly increased risks of both gum disease and oral cancer.
The negative impact on our immune system during stressful times can also increase our susceptibility to mouth ulcers, oral and systemic infections and physical signs of stress can manifest in your mouth too. From tooth grinding to jaw clenching, stress can cause potential damage to your teeth, cause jaw pain and even headaches.
Yoga & Exercise
Finding the time to unwind, be it with yoga, meditation or mindfulness in movement, can be an essential tool to help manage and reduce stress levels, protecting your oral and systemic health. Exercising not only reduces the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and obesity but evidence shows an improvement in our periodontal (gum) health too. And vice-versa, a balanced oral microbiome benefits your physical fitness. Those with periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory condition, have been shown to demonstrate a lower level of physical performance.