Stress and dry mouth: do your patients know the link?


  Posted by: Dental Design      19th November 2023

Many patients experience stress on a day-to-day basis, but do they understand the impact that unhealthy levels of stress can have on the body? Alongside the many well-recorded symptoms, some patients may experience a range of oral complications including dry mouth. As you know, this highly-unpleasant condition can have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life, so it is vital that patients know how to ease the symptoms with support from the dental team. If stress may be the cause, then drawing attention to this and aiding patients in reducing their stress load will be important, too.

Stress in everyday life

According to statistics, stress has a monumental impact on the daily lives of the adult population in the UK. It is believed that one in 14 people feel stressed every day, with women experiencing stress more frequently than men.[i] Research also postulates that lack of sleep, money worries and work demands are some of the biggest stressors in daily life.i  Physically, stress can impact the body in a myriad of ways, from sweating and fatigue to panic attacks, sleep issues, high blood pressure and feelings of sickness, dizziness or fainting.[ii] Stress can also impact a person’s period or menstrual cycle, in addition to exacerbating any existing health problems.

Clearly, high and prolonged levels of stress can be dangerous to our health, including our oral health: research shows that greater perceived stress could be linked with a poorer oral condition.[iii] According to the literature, the link between stress and oral disease is two-fold:iii firstly, stress can encourage unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking and consuming unhealthy foods; all of which, as you know, can be detrimental to oral health. Secondly, that stress can encourage disease progression, due to influencing the body’s physiological systems.iiiAssociations have been made between stress and bruxism,[iv] whereby those experiencing stress may be more likely to suffer from tooth grinding.iv According to the literature, chronic stress (a response to a prolonged internal or external stressor),[v] ‘can activate the dopaminergic system, which may cause non-functional masticatory movements’.iv

Research shows that stress can be associated with xerostomia and dry mouth.[vi] Cortisol and calgranulin A, the salivary biomarkers associated with stress, have been linked to oral dryness and hyposalivation,[vii] while conditions like anxiety and depression, alongside stress, can trigger the development of xerostomia.[viii] As you know, the impact of both stress and dry mouth can massively impact a patient’s quality of life. As such, if stress is a leading factor in your patient’s condition, it’s beneficial to discuss possible pathways to help them manage their stress for the sake of their overall wellbeing.

Empower patients

If a patient reports mouth dryness in addition to high levels of stress, it is important to include stress management in their rehabilitation. Suggest ways that patients could manage their stress, or equip them with resources that they can peruse in their own time. If a patient’s quality of life is suffering, they can be signposted to their GP for further intervention and guidance. With the myriad of ways that stress can impact the body, it is a crucial consideration for the oral health of your patients. Additionally, many of the habits that stress can encourage, such as smoking, drinking or drug taking, are detrimental to oral (and overall) health: so, if possible, discuss this with your patient and see if they can cut down or cut out these habits.

To help combat the unpleasant ramifications of dry mouth, ensure that patients are using tried and trusted methods to help alleviate oral dryness. For instance, recommend a natural yet effective line of oral care products like Xerostom from Oraldent, a product proven to increase salivary flow by up to 200%.[ix] The range includes toothpaste, mouthwash, gel, mouth spray and pastilles, using natural ingredients to help ease the common symptoms of dry mouth. Patients can fit these products seamlessly into their existing oral hygiene routines, and many will appreciate the sugar-free, vegan-friendly and non-acidic formula that’s gentle on the mouth.

With products backed by science and relevant advice for leading a healthier, less stressful life, patients can start to enjoy relief from the debilitating symptoms of dry mouth and stress. 

Helping patients enjoy their oral health, stress-free 

Modern living gives patients enough reason to feel stressed on a daily basis, but the far-reaching impact it can have on health is worrying. Many patients may not realise how damaging stress can be for their oral health: that is why the dental team play a vital role in educating patients and ensuring they have the tools and knowledge needed to lead a healthy life, minimising the burden of oral complications.

For more details, please visit, call 01480 862080 or email

Author Richard Thomas

[i] Ciphr (2021). Workplace stress statistics: how stressed is the UK in 2021? [online] CIPHR. Available at: [Accessed 1 Aug. 2023].

[ii] Mind. (n.d.). Stress. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Aug. 2023].

[iii] Vasiliou, A., Shankardass, K., Nisenbaum, R. and Quiñonez, C. (2016). Current stress and poor oral health. BMC Oral Health, [online] 16(1). Available at: [Accessed 1 Aug. 2023].

[iv] Phuong, N.T.T., Ngoc, V.T.N., Linh, L.M., Duc, N.M., Tra, N.T. and Anh, L.Q. (2020). Bruxism, Related Factors and Oral Health-Related Quality of Life Among Vietnamese Medical Students. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 17(20), p.7408. Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].

[v] (n.d.). APA Dictionary of Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].

[vi] Atif, S., Syed, S.A., Sherazi, U.R. and Rana, S. (2021). Determining the relationship among stress, xerostomia, salivary flow rate, and the quality of life of undergraduate dental students. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, [online] 16(1), pp.9–15. Available at:,swallowing%20and%20speech%20difficulties%2C%20and%20frequent%20oral%20ulcers.11 [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].

[vii] Shigeyama, C., Ansai, T., Awano, S., Soh, I., Yoshida, A., Hamasaki, T., Kakinoki, Y., Tominaga, K., Takahashi, T. and Takehara, T. (2008). Salivary levels of cortisol and chromogranin A in patients with dry mouth compared with age-matched controls. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology, [online] 106(6), pp.833–839. Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023].

[viii] Gholami, N., Hosseini Sabzvari, B., Razzaghi, A. and Salah, S. (2017). Effect of stress, anxiety and depression on unstimulated salivary flow rate and xerostomia. Journal of Dental Research, Dental Clinics, Dental Prospects, [online] 11(4), pp.247–252. Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2023]

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