While common causes of toothache pain include cavities and gum disease, too much stress in your life also can lead to tooth pain. Anxiety doesn't affect teeth directly, but stress can have indirect effects on your oral health. Here are some of the ways stress can hurt your teeth.
People who suffer anxiety and panic attacks sometimes feel pain similar to a toothache in their face or jaw. The pain usually is referred from the neck and shoulders. Referred pain is pain you feel at a location of your body other than where the pain originates.
Anxiety and stress can cause muscle tightness, which often leads to pain in the neck and shoulders. Muscle tension is one way the body naturally responds to stress. Stress increases muscle tension; increased muscle tension often leads to pain in the head, neck, and shoulders. Treatment involves addressing the underlying factors that bring on an anxiety response.
Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth
Stress and anxiety can cause you to grind your teeth or clench your jaw muscles, particularly at night when you sleep. This can lead to an aching pain around your jaw during the day.
Grinding your teeth can cause cracking, chipping, or breaking of teeth. Wearing away tooth enamel or teeth that become loose are other types of damage teeth grinding can cause. Any of these conditions can make teeth hurt.
Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth puts added stress on jaw muscles, which can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome -- another cause of tooth pain. Although reducing the stress in your life can help alleviate the problem, a dentist, like Kevin J Owoc, may design a dental appliance that will help take the pressure off your teeth, easing jaw pain or soreness. There are different appliances you can use, but your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard at night or a dental splint to reposition the lower jaw, protect your teeth from grinding, and relieve pain.
If anxiety causes you to worry excessively about your teeth, you may have a tendency to overbrush. Brushing your teeth too often or too vigorously can wear down tooth enamel and cause your gums to recede -- increasing your risk of developing periodontal disease. It also can leave your with sensitive teeth.
Plaque is soft so when it comes to brushing technique, you don't have to press down hard to remove it from your teeth. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth two or three times a day. More times than that may be too much.
Acid Reflux Disease
Although there is no research proving that stress causes acid reflux disease (GERD) -- a condition in which stomach acid backs up into your esophagus -- stress can increase acid production in the stomach, which can worsen GERD symptoms. Tricyclic antidepressants or sedatives your doctor prescribes for anxiety also can bring on symptoms of acid reflux or make symptoms worse. Since the esophagus is the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach, acids from the stomach that leak into the esophagus have the potential to erode tooth enamel.
Stomach acid has a low pH, which means it contains more acid. The pH of stomach acid is lower than the pH at which tooth enamel begins to dissolve. Therefore, to prevent serious problems associated with your oral health, it's important for your doctor to treat your acid reflux disease. In the meantime, make your dentist aware of the problem. He or she may recommend rinsing your mouth with water following acid reflux episodes. He or she may also recommend dissolving sugar-free antacids in your mouth.