Studies show that our oral health is tightly connected to our overall health. Conditions like stress, distress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are all linked to poor oral health, and that includes the development of painful mouth ulcers.
A study from the National Library of Medicine found that there is a causal relationship between stress-related mood instability, insomnia, and anxiety and the development of mouth ulcers. In this blog we dive into the causes of mouth ulcers and how taking care of your mental health may reduce your risk of developing them.
What is a mouth ulcer?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, mouth ulcers are sores that can form on your lips, gums, inner cheeks, or roof of your mouth. Sometimes called canker sores, these lesions in the mouth can be very painful even though they are usually not harmful to your health. The sores are usually red or yellow and will go away on their own with time. However, if you experience chronic mouth ulcers, it’s important to chat with your dentist as that could indicate a more serious health condition such as diabetes, immune disorders, HIV and AIDS, and more.
What causes mouth ulcers?
Mouth ulcers are caused by many things including tissue injury in the mouth, biting the tongue or inner cheeks, vitamin deficiencies, eating a lot of acidic food, infections, and using abrasive toothpaste.
The painful sores are also caused by increased stress, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and anxiety.
Research connects mental and oral health with mouth ulcers
As the understanding of the connection between mental and oral health continues to grow, dentists and doctors are starting to work together to provide optimal care for their patients. Mental health seems to have a serious impact on an individual’s oral health.
Mental health disorders such as stress and anxiety have been linked to a higher likelihood of developing mouth ulcers. Research suggests that stress is linked to disrupting immune system components, which leads to an overall imbalance in hormones and chemicals in the body. This imbalance is often associated with the development of mouth ulcers.
In addition to biological factors, poor mental health has been linked to an increased risk of poor oral health habits. People struggling with mental health disorders are less likely to brush their teeth and floss regularly and go to dental check-ups.
The mind and mouth connection
Taking care of your mental health, recognizing and reducing stressful situations, and finding ways to deal with anxiety may help reduce your risk of developing painful mouth ulcers (and other dental or medical problems). If you find yourself struggling, it’s important to talk with a medical professional to help alleviate or treat the problems. Remember, the mind and mouth connection is strong!
Learn more about the oral and overall health connection:
*Updated February 2023