Childhood stress shows up everywhere in adult life—even the inside of your mouth
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Childhood is supposed to be a time for innocence, fun, and exploration. But, the reality of growing up with stress hangs over the heads of many children, and its consequences are not limited to their adolescent years—many adult struggles are deeply rooted in childhood stress. In recent years, medical research has uncovered one of the more surprising places this stress can be stored: the inside of your mouth.
Childhood stress shows up everywhere in adult life—even the inside of your mouth

Table of Contents

1. The Lingering Effects of Childhood Stress

Growing up is a challenging time for everyone, and it can be especially difficult for those who have experienced childhood stress. Traumatic experiences, especially in early years, can stay with us long after the stressful time has passed, making it hard to move forward and lead a happy life.

Aside from psychological effects, research suggests that childhood stress can also have an impact on physical health. Conditions like cardiovascular disease, an increased risk of diabetes, and metabolic disorders may all be linked to past experiences of stress.

Finding ways to cope with these lingering effects of childhood stress is essential for well-being. Doing what you can to address the root causes, developing a support network, and taking the time to nurture yourself are just a few ideas that may help to start the process of healing. If you find yourself struggling with the after-effects of childhood stress, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone — and that help is available.

  • Address the root causes of childhood stress
  • Build a supportive network
  • Take time for self-care
  • Remember: You are not alone and help is available

1. The Lingering Effects of Childhood Stress

2. Teeth: An Unexpected Mirror of Our Early Lives

Our teeth can tell us a lot. Whether it’s our dental hygiene habits or the food we’ve consumed, they act as a window into our early lives. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a full set of adult teeth, a quick look in the mirror can take us back to when our teeth began to grow.

Have you ever wondered why we have milk teeth in the first place? It’s quite simple: not all of the adult teeth are ready to grow at the same time, so milk teeth give the others time to catch up and begin to emerge. Eventually, all of the adult teeth are present in the permanent smile.

From the smooth, white baby teeth to the conical incisors used for cutting food, teeth are the most powerful symbol of our early development. They provide us with a visual map of our baby and childhood years, giving us the ability to reconnect with that time for the rest of our lives.

  • Milk teeth provide the perfect environment for our adult teeth to grow.
  • Our teeth are a visual map of our baby and childhood years.
  • They give us a permanent smile for the rest of our lives.

3. What Science Says about Stress and Oral Health

Having a healthy mouth is important to maintain overall health, but did you know that stress can play a big role in maintaining oral health? Surprisingly, science has shed some light on how stress and one’s oral health can be related.

The teeth and gums experience wear and tear just like any other part of the body, and stress can cause certain reactions that accelerate aging of the teeth and gums. Prolonged stress causes the body to produce excess cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to inflammation in your mouth that leads to periodontal disease.

Studies have also found that certain types of stress can result in more destructive oral health issues. For instance, intense stress can result in teeth grinding and bruxism, excessive clenching of the jaw, that can result in facial pain, tension headaches, loose or cracked teeth, temporomandibular joint disorders, and misalignment. Fortunately, identifying and addressing the source of the stress can help reduce the risk of developing these issues.

  • Cortisol and adrenaline can lead to periodontal disease
  • Stress can cause teeth grinding and bruxism
  • Addressing the source of stress can reduce risks

4. Powerful Strategies to Combat Negative Memories and Stress Impacts

Differentiate Sensations
Negative memories tend to be connected to physical sensations and feelings. To fight this, it is important to differentiate the actual physical sensation from the physical sensation experienced with the memory. For instance, when feeling anxious or stressed, it is essential to recognize that the feeling is coming from the current situation, and not just from the trauma. Additionally, taking control of the physical sensation can help to combat negative memories. This can be done by breathing deeply and slowly, drinking water, changing locations, or engaging in light physical exercise.

Obtain Positive Reframing Strategies
Accessing positive strategies that give an alternative perspective and help build a positive narrative is a great method to combat negative memories and stress impacts. Creating a positive meaning around the situation can help to change the underlying beliefs that drive negative memories. For example, cognitive reframing of the experience can help to shift the view of the memory, allowing it to be seen as a chance to learn, to develop skills, or to gain strength. Additionally, constantly demanding a more positive interpretation of the experience can help to reconstruct the story in an empowering way.

Access Self-Care Practices
High quality self-care can be a powerful tool when it comes to fighting trauma and negative memories. This includes:

  • Engaging in relaxation practices, such as yoga, mindfulness, tai chi.
  • Making sure to spend time alone and with loved ones.
  • Getting enough sleep and proper nutrition.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Journaling and expressing feelings.
  • Spending time in nature and engaging outdoor activities.

By engaging in self-care, it is possible to reduce emotional intensity and sense of overwhelm. Furthermore, it will help to feel at ease and increase the capacity to handle distressful moments.


Q: How does childhood stress manifest itself in adults?
A: Childhood stress can have a range of effects on adult life, from physical to psychological. Physically, it can result in tension headaches, sleep disturbances, stomach problems, and, surprisingly, dental issues. Psychological effects can range from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Q: How do childhood stress and dental issues connect?
A: Research suggests that when we are stressed, our bodies produce hormones that can cause imbalances in our saliva, leading to a decrease in salivary protection in our mouth. This leads to an increase in bacteria, which can cause dental problems, such as gum disease and tooth decay.

Q: What can an adult do to manage and lessen the effects of childhood stress?
A: Fortunately, there are measures that adults can take to help prevent and cope with the consequences of childhood stress. Psychotherapy and other forms of counseling can be beneficial in understanding and managing your past experiences. Additionally, taking care of your body through a balanced diet, engaging in physical activity, and making sure to get enough rest all have a positive effect on your wellbeing.

Childhood stress can be difficult to overcome, but fortunately, there are many resources available to help adults tackle the issue and find proactive ways to support their wellbeing. Taking the time to understand the effects of stress in childhood now can make a huge difference in promoting a healthy life for the future.

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