Can Stress be Ruining My Teeth?

There’s no denying that excess stress can take a tremendous toll on your body – we’re always hearing about significant health problems related to stress such as heart attacks, migraine headaches, heartburn, back pain, asthma, and diabetes – to name a just a few. So it should come as no surprise to learn that stress can also wreak havoc inside your mouth as well, causing serious damage to your teeth and gums.

Bruxism, which is the medical term for excessive teeth grinding and clenching, is a common condition most often associated with chronic stress or anxiety.   It affects nearly 70 million adults in the US alone, and usually occurs during sleep so you may not even realize you are grinding your teeth until the damage in your mouth is too obvious or painful to ignore. 

The effects of bruxism on your teeth are not pretty.  Over time, as the tooth enamel is worn down from the tooth-on-tooth friction, your teeth will lose their natural contours so they become flat and even in length. Once the dentin (the layer under the enamel) is exposed, your teeth will not only appear yellowish in color, but they will also be hypersensitive meaning they will hurt to the touch, making it painful to eat, drink or even brush. Longer term damage includes loose teeth, micro-cracks, fractures, and even tooth loss. When you’ve reached this stage, you’re facing painful and expensive dental procedures such as root canals, implants, bridges, or dentures.

The damage isn’t just limited to your teeth. Because clenching puts pressure on the teeth to move down toward the roots, the gums recede causing bacteria pockets to form which can lead to other unintended consequences like increased plaque, infections and periodontal disease.

Teeth Grinding is a Natural Reaction to Stress

Clenching your jaw or teeth is a natural reaction to stress; more often than note it occurs subconsciously.  Unfortunately, anxiety and tooth grinding can become a vicious cycle – since teeth grinding frequently disrupts your sleep and lack of sleeps causes anxiety which in turn leads to more teeth grinding. 

Steps to Help Reduce Tooth Damage

As you can see, the long term effects of bruxism can be quite serious which is why it’s so important to be aware of this condition and address any teeth grinding issues as soon as possible. Some of the obvious telltale signs are waking up with sore, or fatigued jaw muscles; or with a dull headache.  You may even experience the unsettling sound of enamel grinding against enamel—that can be so loud that it will wake you or your spouse or partner during sleep. The key is being proactive to identify the symptoms, and then take preventative steps to avoid recurrence. 

Don't Encourage Your Jaw to Clench

You can actually be guilty of coaxing your jaw into a clenching position. How? If you have a habit of chewing pens, pencils or chewing gum during the day as a way to alleviate stress, you may be getting your jaw muscles used to the 'art' of clenching. Did you know, for example, chewing gum in excess of two hours per day encourages jaw muscles to clench, and may increase your chances of grinding your teeth when you are not chewing?   Unfortunately, your jaw may decide to repeat the action while you are sleeping.

Reduce Stress

This is easier said than done but finding natural ways to reduce stress can help to minimize the effects of bruxism, these can include diet modification, exercise, and relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture. 

Be Mindful of Certain Substances

Prescription medications, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine intake have all been linked to a potential increase in the likelihood as well as the level of intensity of Bruxism.

Wear a Grind Guard

Wearing a grind guard can be the single, most effective treatment in providing relief from the symptoms of bruxism. A dental grind guard provides a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, thus protecting the tooth enamel from rubbing together, preventing the negative effects of bruxism.  Grind guards are removable and generally worn only when needed (i.e., at night or while sleeping).

Don’t Get Stressed Out Over Your Oral Health 

While stress can certainly do a number on your teeth and gums affecting your overall health and appearance, the key to minimizing the effects of bruxism and further damage by protecting your teeth.  If you think you may be grinding your teeth, visit today to “find the relief you have been looking for”™.