The Oral Health Effects of Stress in Children

child stress

You may think that stress is reserved only for adults, but the truth is stress can have just as damaging an impact on the emotional, physical, and psychological well-being of children as well. Much like with adults, there are a wide variety of potential stressors that can increase anxiety in a child. These may include parental influences whether on one another or directly on the child, a death in the family, a divorce, and peer pressures and worries, among others.

Know the Signs

If a child is dealing with high amounts of stress and anxiety, this can manifest in a physical reaction resulting in adverse effects on their dental hygiene and even their overall health. Shifts in otherwise normal behavioral patterns are often the first indicators that a child is dealing with stress and they are often evidenced in the following ways:

  • A substantial change in attitude towards their favorite things
  • Lying or cheating
  • ecoming increasingly irritable and annoyed
  • A change in the sleep and eating habits
  • Feeling sick all the time
  • Leaving behind good friends for new ones

Dangers to Oral Health

Stress can drive a child to behave differently, lash out, and act in ways that are completely out of character. That might also have an effect on his or her dental care as the child loses interest in brushing and flossing and starts eating more unhealthy food items that promote tooth decay. If the stress is particularly high, the child may start to grind their teeth while they sleep or even start sucking their thumb, which can impact their teeth in negative ways as well. These can all be damaging to a child’s teeth since they are still growing and evolving.

Health Effects

Tooth decay is the biggest cause of pain, cavities, filling, abscesses, and extractions in young children. Teeth that are missing or improperly aligned can be difficult for children to deal with in social settings with peers of their age. Stress on children living in low income households can prove even more difficult and cause greater impacts on their dental health and the proper development of dentition. Socio-economic factors can be one of the most influential stressors on children and the health of their teeth, studies have shown that children in these households are more susceptible to higher levels of salivary cortisols and bacteria in the mouth. This can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.