According to a Gallup Poll that evaluated common stressors and stress levels for Americans, 8 in 10 people reported that they were frequently or sometimes afflicted by stress. When we think about how stress affects our bodies, usually things like headaches, digestive issues or having low energy come to mind.
One of the most common physical manifestations of stress is actually jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which is also known as bruxism. What’s worst about teeth grinding as a symptom of stress is that it usually occurs unconsciously during the day or at night during sleep so most people are unaware that it’s an issue until they start experiencing chronic symptoms.
How do I know if I grind my teeth?
People that suffer from the effects of jaw clenching and teeth grinding usually experience some of the following symptoms:
- Sore, tight jaw muscles
- Sore teeth
- A dull, constant headache starting in temples
- Neck, jaw or face pain and soreness
- Pain that feels like an earache
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
- Jaw locking that won’t open or close all the way
- Swollen, tender jaw muscles
- Disrupted, restless sleep
Why is teeth grinding harmful?
Untreated teeth grinding and clenching can lead to a number of issues that can affect your oral health and your quality of sleep:
- Damage to the teeth, including chipping, flattening or loosening
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing the inner layers of the tooth which causes pain and sensitivity
- Damage to dental work like crowns or restorations
- Chronic tension headaches
- TMJ, which affects the joint that connects your lower and upper jaw and makes daily necessities like talking and chewing extremely painful
- Sleep disorders
How is teeth grinding treated?
If you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth (or a loved one has told you so, which is usually how it’s discovered), you should set up an appointment with the dentist to undergo a full evaluation and diagnosis.
In many cases, teeth grinding is easily treated with a custom-made mouth piece that fits over the top or bottom teeth. Wearing a guard over the teeth at night can help reduce jaw muscle pain and protect your teeth from the wear of unconscious grinding.
If grinding or clenching is caused by stress, it’s important to also think about how to integrate healthy behavioral techniques into your daily life to help manage the stress that’s causing physical symptoms. Some patients find that relaxation techniques like focused breathing and meditation can go a long way toward bringing down stress levels.