Thursday, April 25, 2024

Bruxism is caused by stress

Feeling stressed out but you don’t know it? 

Take a closer look at your teeth. 

Have you been clenching or grinding your teeth in your sleep? 

We all clench our jaws or grind our teeth from time to time. But when the grinding becomes a frequent occurrence it’s time to address the issue. 


Bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. Clenching and grinding are common stress responses causing a lot of strain on your teeth. This problem often gets worse at night when we lack consciousness to control or stop excessive clenching and grinding of our teeth. 


Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include —

Sometimes suffering from sleep bruxism may go unnoticed so it is important to stay vigilant of the signs and symptoms that may point towards bruxism. 

  • Loud clenching or grinding of your teeth may wake up your sleeping partner
  • Your teeth are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose and your enamel is worn off
  • Increase in tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Tight jaw muscles or a case of locked jaw 
  • Jaw, neck, earache, headache starting in the temples and face pain 
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek from chewing it 
  • Disrupted sleep


Causes of clenching and grinding your teeth –

The exact cause of bruxism hasn’t been pinpointed by doctors but it has been attributed to a combination of physical, psychological and genetic factors. 

  • Stress and anxiety: surprise surprise… clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth can be caused by stress or anxiety. With a number of us experiencing unprecedented stress levels, grinding your teeth is a physical manifestation of the stress and anxiety you are going through. Unfortunately, we don’t always deal with that stress in the healthiest of manners. Stress teeth grinding can occur during the day or night and those who grind their teeth often don’t even realise that they’re doing it making it incredibly difficult to treat or to stop doing. That’s why it is so very important to pay attention to the symptoms so it doesn’t go undiagnosed or untreated. 

  • Caffeine before bed: The connection between caffeine at night and teeth clenching while sleeping is uncanny. We’re all well aware of caffeine jitters that cause your energy levels and heart rate to spike resulting in teeth grinding and poor sleep. To prevent your teeth from suffering the consequences of your caffeine high , try switching to decaf coffee, herbal teas or water after 3 pm.

  • Tobacco or alcohol: People who are heavy smokers or drinkers especially once the sun has set are prone to bruxism. Abusing these substances affects your sleep cycle, especially if both are combined. This can lead to sleep disorders which is a gateway for teeth grinding. Cutting back or quitting.. your teeth will thank you. 


  • Medication or recreational drugs: Bruxism is an uncommon but not impossible side effect of some psychiatric medications, such as certain antidepressants or using recreational drugs may increase the risk of bruxism.


  • Age and genetics: Bruxism is very common in young children who tend to outgrow it as they make their way to adulthood. There is nothing like the power of genetics. If you have family members who suffer from bruxism other members of your family may have bruxism or a history of it as well.

  • Sleep disorders and other disorders: The most common cause of bruxism is another sleep disorder that is causing bruxism. Disorders like chronic snoring or obstructive sleep apnea can cause frequent interruptions in sleep leading to teeth grinding and clenching. Seeking an accurate diagnosis is the first step to much needed relief.  Bruxism can also be associated with mental health and medical disorders like Anxiety and Depression, Parkinson’s disease, Dementia, Gastroesophageal reflux disorder or acid reflux, epilepsy, night terrors or ADHD. Treating the main disorder can often help with teeth clenching and other symptoms. 


Complications if Bruxism is left untreated —

Teeth grinding and clenching can cause serious issues if left untreated. Because people aren’t always aware that they’re doing it, it can lead to complications. Damage to your teeth, tooth enamel, restorations, crowns or jaw, tension-type headaches, facial or jaw pain, disorders like temporomandibular joints (TMJs) which can inhibit chewing and cause a clicking sound can develop. Which is why nipping teeth grinding in the bud is the best solution. 

NOTE: Oftentimes bruxism doesn’t cause serious complications unless it is severe and left untreated. 


Treatments for teeth clenching and grinding –

If you suffer from teeth grinding and clenching a multipronged treatment plan can help you figure out the source of bruxism, manage it and in some cases even overcome it. Based on the specific symptoms and stressors, physicians often take the following approaches:


  • Activities to reduce stress like yoga and meditation can help reduce daytime teeth clenching. Deep breathing, walking among nature, engaging in hobbies like painting or listening to music, light reading, exercising, selfcare like taking a hot bath or getting a massage are ways to relax your mind and body and throw stress out of the window.   


  • Counselling and Behavioural strategies: working with a psychologist can help you learn to manage intense emotions, help with stress management, identify triggers and help you use calming techniques which will help in reducing bruxism. 


  • A plastic mouthguard while awake or sleeping usually works. A dentist can even make you a custom fitted guard to protect your teeth and for maximum comfort. 


  • Getting tested for sleep disorders or medical conditions can identify the root cause of your teeth clenching. 


  • Medication like muscle relaxers can help relax the jaw and stop nighttime teeth grinding. 


Conclusion –

Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that your teeth should almost never be touching? 

They should only touch each other for a few seconds while swallowing, that’s it. 

If you feel like your teeth are touching any other time you could have a jaw clenching or teeth grinding problem.

Since the pandemic, doctors and dentists have seen a spike in cases of teeth clenching and grinding. Stress levels are at an all time high, taking a toll on your teeth. If you feel like you’re guilty of grinding your teeth, dont worry youre not alone. Visit your dentist now and put an end to it before your thirty-two teeth cant flash when you smile.


Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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