Stress is a contributor to a number of health problems, and your teeth are no exception to that rule. A relatively common complaint is “teeth grinding”, or what we call in the dental field bruxism.
Bruxism (the technical term for teeth grinding or bruxing) affects about 8% of the adult population and is common among children as well. The causes aren’t fully understood, but it’s generally believed that stress or emotional distress are major causes.
While many people experience mild or occasional bruxism, it may be so frequent for some people that it needs to be addressed by a dentist. Bruxism is linked to serious other dental issues, such as TMJ, Cracked Tooth Syndrome, or chronic headaches. All are disruptive, and will only add to the stress that is causing your bruxism symptoms.
Consider the Following Symptoms
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth during the day or during sleep. It’s very possible that your bruxing is keeping your sleeping partner awake at night. If you think it’s possible you are experiencing bruxism, talk to your partner – they may have something to say about it, if they haven’t already!
- Pain in the jaw or face, or you’re feeling pain in the ear that’s similar to an earache (but you know there is nothing wrong with your ear)
- Dull headaches radiating from the temples.
- Your teeth may be more sensitive.
- Tight jaw muscles, or your jaw feels tired.
- Look at your oral cavity in a mirror: are your teeth looking worn or damaged? Your tongue may also have indentions you can see, or you may have damage on the inside of your cheeks (a result of continuous chewing).
If any of these symptoms are severe enough and frequent enough to cause disruption in your daily life, you should make an appointment with us immediately.
What can be done?
We will fit you with a custom mouthguard, tailored specifically for your teeth. While you may have seen over-the-counter mouthguards in the store, these are not as effective as one that fits your mouth specifically, and are made of materials that don’t last or are too soft. Our mouthguards are made of kevlar (the same material used in bullet-proof vests) and can last fifteen to twenty years!
Remember that without proper treatment, bruxism will cause teeth to crack and fracture – which means you’ll have to get crowns (a much more intensive procedure). So why take the risk?
What can I do?
It is possible that your bruxism is caused by the misalignment of your teeth (malocclusion), which may be addressed with dental correction procedures (such as braces or re-shaping the chewing surfaces of the tooth).
In the majority of cases however, stress and emotional distress are the culprits. The good news is that you can do something about these causes, in addition to being fitted with a mouth guard. You might want to add the following to your “overall health to do list”:
Get more exercise – Exercise is the best form of stress reliever for most people. Add a short walk or two to your daily routine and you’ll feel a decrease in stress.
Meditation – Meditation is increasingly popular as a form of stress management and well-being. Meditation doesn’t need to be done in a particular place, or follow specific rules. Click this link to get some ideas on what you can do to start.
Assess your medications – Many people experiencing stress may already be taking medications to help alleviate symptoms, but some medications can lead to bruxism. Talk to your healthcare provider to better understand the medications you’re taking and their side effects.
Quit smoking! Tobacco is a stimulant that can definitely contribute to bruxism – yet another reason to drop the habit. You should also try and monitor and moderate your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
But most of all…
If you are experiencing these symptoms, the best thing you can do is make an appointment with us to take a look and make a plan to repair your teeth and jaws.
At Anderson Dental Care, we put a big premium on prevention. If we can fix a problem before it becomes so severe that it requires a complicated, painful, and usually more expensive procedure, we will.
Click here to fill out an appointment form, or call us at (513) 657-4835. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!