On the link between emotions, stress and caries (cavities) development
Scientific studies suggest causal connection
A dentist once told me that he could tell a person's emotional/psychological health from their teeth, and that the worse state their teeth were in, the worse their psychological state was. I know that this (at least in a generalized form) isn't true since I once knew a person with great emotional challenges (he even sometimes was suicidal in the two years I knew him) who had a mouthful of perfect, caries-free teeth!
That said, there are a number of scientific studies which do support a link between caries development, emotions and stress, and the sometimes amazing results EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) has achieved with (even serious) dental issues point to there being a distinct connection as well. (And just maybe, one of the reasons that a small percentage of the Western population seems to be immune to caries could indeed be found in the realm of emotions.)
It seems likely that among the factors in the chain of causation linking stress and caries development are the lowering effect negative emotions (may) have both on the immune system (equalling less defense against bacteria colonising teeth and gums) and on saliva pH (the more acidic the saliva, the more caries1). Also the dry mouth experienced under extreme stress, any medications taken to alleviate stress [as well as other medicines] which decrease saliva production3 and of course the sweet sugary "comfort foods" resorted to by many in times of stress (classical example: choccy bars).
Scientific studies relating to the likely link between emotions and dental health
- Borysenko M, Turesky S, Borysenko JZ, Quimby F, Benson H.: Stress and dental caries in the rat. J Behav Med. 1980 Sep;3(3):233-43.2
- Honkala E, Maidi D, Kolmakow S.: Dental caries and stress among South African political refugees. Quintessence Int. 1992 Aug; 23(8):579-83.
- Comparison of Caries Incidence in Exercised and Immobilized Rats. Ralph R. Steinman, Morris Brussett, and Peter Tartaryn, College of Medical Evangelists, School of Dentistry, Loma Linda, California, USA, 19602 (available at http://jdr.sagepub.com/content/40/1/218.full.pdf). Dr. Steinman's study showed a significant increase in the incidence of tooth decay in the stressed rats (who otherwise received the same diet etc. as the non-stressed ones).
- Iwata S, Ohashi T, Ishitzu E, Hirose A, Isozaki A, Kani T.: The relationship between dental caries of deciduous teeth and anxiety of mothers associated with child-care. Nippon Koshu Eisei Zasshi. 2003 Dec; 50(12):1144-52.
- Nicholau B, Marcenes W, Bartley M, Sheiham A.: A life course approach to assessing causes of dental caries experience: the relationship between biological, behavioural, socio-economic and psychological conditions and caries in adolescents. Caries Res. 2003 Sept-Oct; 37(5):319-26.
- Ozaki M, Ishii K, Kubovama H, Ozaki Y, Motokawa W.: An epidemiological study on dental caries of children in the town of Fuji. 3. Correlation between dental caries and personality characteristics. Shoni Shikagaku Zasshi. 1991; 29(1):62-71.
- Shimura N, Nakamura C, Hirawama Y, Yonemitsu M.: Anxiety and dental caries. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 1983 Aug;11(4):224-7
- Tang C, Ouinonez RB, Hallett K, Lee JY, Whitt JK.: Examining the association between parenting stress and the development of early childhood caries. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2005 dec; 33(6):454-60.
- Tumshevits ON, Leont’ev VK, Boginskaia LM.: The prophylactic aspects of dental caries in the antenatal period. Stomatologia (Mosk). 1990 Jul-Aug;(4):73-5.
- Wendt LK, Svedin CG, Hallonsten AL, Larsson IB.: Infants and toddlers with caries. Mental health, family interaction, and life events in infants and toddlers with caries. Swed Dent J. 1995; 19(1-2):17-27.
Scientific studies showing that our DNA (and consequently, immune system etc.) is directly influenced by our feelings
Some eye-opening, revolutionary experiments have been carried out by the Institute of Heart Math in California. These highly important studies have shown that our emotions affect our DNA and that the nature of the effect depends on the nature of the emotion felt (the pertinent paper was published under the forbidding title "Local and Non-Local Effects of Coherent Heart Frequencies on Conformational Changes of DNA").
In a nutshell, these studies uncovered the following major facts relating to health:
DNA changes its shape according to the feelings we feel.
When we feel gratitude, love, compassion, appreciation, the DNA responds by relaxing and unwinding its strands, with the length of the DNA extending and our immune response being enhanced.
When we feel anger, jealousy, fear, frustration, stress, etc., our DNA responds by contracting/tightening/becoming shorter, with our immune response being depleted and many DNA codes being switched off/shut down.
Both of these effects are reversible if we switch to a different (opposite) feeling state, as above.
How would these findings relate to the health of our teeth? Well (perhaps surprisingly to some), our teeth contain DNA (in fact, DNA from dental material is used in forensic medicine, research on millennia-old mummies, in murder investigations etc.). So while I have no data at this point corroborating that dental DNA reacts identically to the above, there is a possibility that it might, and the consequences good or bad would be obvious.
In any case, it's extraordinary that we possess as Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Dawson Church and Dr. Gregg Braden have described, the power to change the way our DNA works via our emotions (and thoughts). And I don't think it can hurt (in fact the opposite), to cultivate feelings of gratitude, appreciation, joy, and love, since Gratitude Helps Heal.
More scientific evidence for the link between stress and cavities
See the important Meditation for stress reduction benefits teeth and gums by triggering tooth-friendly salivary changes.
On the link between certain negative emotions/stress and gum/tooth problems
2 Please note that Healing Teeth Naturally does not support animal experimentation. Many reasons for this are discussed for instance at Animal Experimentation Unscientific, On Differences Between Species, Better Science: Benefits of Using Non-Animal Tests The Harms to Humans from Animal Experimentation and Better Science: Limitations of Animal Tests.
For details of Dr. Steinman's animal research into the etiology of tooth decay the results of which seem to fully apply to humans as well, see Dentinal fluid transport - revolutionary theory of natural caries resistance and cariogenesis: Research by Drs. Steinman & Leonora posits the precedence of host resistance over bacteria as primary cause of tooth decay.