Tooth grinding is a major cause of tooth wear, chipped teeth and pain associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and studies have linked grinding, also known as bruxism, to stress and anxiety. In addition to a correlation between stress and tooth grinding, tooth grinding can also be caused by issues with the bite.
How is stress linked to tooth grinding?
Experts believe that around 70 per cent of cases of bruxism are linked to stress or anxiety. The vast majority of people grind their teeth subconsciously during the night and are often unaware that they do it until they are told by a friend or partner. Stress is a common problem, which may be caused by many different factors, including traumatic life events, financial pressures, illness or poor health, unemployment, relationship issues and work-related problems.
Dentists all over the UK reported an increase in the number of patients visiting with symptoms of tooth grinding after the recession hit and signs were particularly common among people with stressful jobs and those whose jobs were at risk.
Researchers have also discovered that people with certain personality types are more likely to suffer from stress; high fliers who are determined and highly strung and people who class themselves as perfectionists, may be at risk of suffering from tooth grinding.
What are the effects of tooth grinding?
If you grind your teeth now and again, it is unlikely to cause a great deal of harm, but if you do it on a regular basis, you will probably start to notice signs. Implications of grinding or clenching your teeth include worn and chipped teeth, uneven teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, swollen gums, headaches and pain in and around the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint that joins the skull and the lower jaw. You may also experience restricted movement in the joint, ear ache, stiffness in your neck and shoulders and disrupted sleep; this is also likely to affect your partner.
What can be done to reduce stress and tackle tooth grinding?
Stress is an issue for most people at some point in their lives, but if it’s taking over your day to day life and you are struggling, you should consider getting help. There are various treatments, therapies and activities, which may help to reduce stress and often, tackling stress helps to stop tooth grinding. Suggestions for combating stress include:
* relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, massage therapy, aromatherapy and meditation
* taking time out for a holiday, short break or even to just chill out and read a book or have a relaxing bath
* talking therapies
* avoiding alcohol and smoking can also help to prevent bruxism.
Dental treatment for tooth grinding
If you suffer from bruxism, it is advisable to see your dentist. Treatment options for tooth grinding include orthodontic treatment for cases that are associated with malocclusion, mandible advancement devices (also known as MADs) and mouth guards. Mouth guards are the most common treatment; they are similar to protective mouth guards that are worn for playing sport and they help to prevent contact between the biting surfaces of the teeth.
By Richard Buckley. Expert orthodontic advice is available at my website.