STRESS RELATED MOUTH CONDITIONS

Aaah summer! Beautiful weather, sunshine, water, vacation…time to relax and reduce your stress! You know how bad the stress is for your health and this is how it may affect your mouth with these unwanted and painful conditions:

Canker sores – or aphthae

They are generally round in shape and form in the soft areas of the mouth such as the inside of the lips, the cheeks or underside of the tongue. They can occur in single ulcers or in clusters.

Canker sores are recurrent so they may occur anytime in your life, and each episode lasts about 7 – 10 days. They are quite common – affecting around one in five people.

Important to know:

They are not contagious and are benign. Their cause is unclear and there is no cure but treatment options are available for pain the ulcers cause.

Possible triggers of aphthous ulcers :

Stress

Minor injuries inside the mouth – from burns, hard brushing or …yes, dental work!

Allergies

Sodium lauryl sulfate – an active ingredient in some toothpastes and mouthwashes

Certain foods and drinks, like coffee, chocolate, acidic or spicy foods

Deficiency of certain vitamins including Zinc, B12, foliate and iron.

What can you do to help the pain if you already have aphthae ulcers:

  1. Rinse the mouth with salt water
  2. Rinse the mouth with solution of baking soda
  3. Apply teething gel to the affected area
  4. Apply milk of magnesia to the area
  5. Succing ice chips or cubes

There is also another type of aphthae – major ulcer, less common and larger 5mm or more. They last between 2 weeks and couple of months even and are more painful.

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  • Cold sores – summer nightmare 

    Also known as Herpes labialis, are caused by Herpes simplex virus. They primarily affect corners of the mouth, the lips, the nostrils and area between upper lip and the nose.

    Important to know:

    This condition is very contagious! The virus can be transferred through saliva but also if you share dishes, cutlery, towels, toothbrushes and toothbrush holders etc. That’s why it is very important to let your dental team know ahead of time if you are experiencing any symptoms or recurrent cold sore as we will not be able to see you until the blister is healed!

    Most people get infected with the herpes simplex virus in childhood at which time there usually are no symptoms; after infection the virus stays in the nervous system. 

    Certain triggers lead to virus reactivating such as:

    Fever

    Sunlight

    Stress

    Weakened immune system

    During the first episode of cold sores, the blisters can be very painful with fever, muscle pain and swelling of the lymph nodes. The cold sores usually last 2 weeks and are contagious through the whole 2 weeks! 

    Lichen planus in your mouth

    This is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes in your mouth. It can appear as white, lacy patches, red swollen tissues or open sores. These can cause burning, pain and other discomfort. It occurs when the immune system attacks cells of the mucous membranes for unknown reasons.

    Important to know:

    Oral lichen planus can’t be passed from one person to another.

    People who have oral lichen planus need regular monitoring because they may be at risk of developing oral cancer in the affected areas!

    Although it’s not known what causes oral lichen planus, it’s possible that, in some people it can be triggered by:

    Mouth injury

    Infection or allergy causing agents

    Stress – which may be involved in symptoms becoming worse or recurring.

    Burning mouth syndrome

    Mostly found in postmenopausal women, this unpleasant condition has no signs. Patients usually describe it as a chronic pain with :

    Burning, scalded or tingling, sometimes as feeling “raw” and tender.

    Dry mouth

    Sore throat

    Changes in taste, such as bad taste of metal in your mouth

    Sometimes trouble swallowing

    It can last a few months.The causes are unknown (again!). One of the theories links it to estrogen or progesterone deficit, another relates it to autoimmunity but nothing is proven.

    Despite the unknown underlying cause, there is a strong association with:

    Acid reflux

    Dry mouth syndrome

    Medications used to treat high blood pressure

    And mostly anxiety and depression

    On top of these conditions, there are of course : TMJ problems and grinding (we had a separate blog about this), gum problems and many others so please take time off your stressful life and fully enjoy every day of this wonderful time of the year!

    Many sunny days this summer!

    M de Angelis