Stress Can Cause Nighttime Teeth Grinding

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The uncertain financial times we are encountering today has brought about a lot of stress and anxiety for millions of people. Stress is known to exacerbate many health conditions, but did you know that it can also affect your teeth?

People who are stressed by daily problems and do not have an outlet or adequate coping mechanism are more likely to grind their teeth at night, according to research published in the open access journal Head & Face Medicine.

The condition is called “bruxism” and can lead to abrasive tooth wear, loose, cracked and sensitive teeth, headaches, and jaw pain. Sharif Khan, a cosmetic and implant dental specialist, says that “People who are worst affected by grinding are Type A personalities: ambitious people and perfectionists, who usually work in business.”

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Yann Maidment, a dentist from Edinburgh, says that his practice has seen a 10-20% increase in patients with bruxism over the past 18 months as England has seen its worst recession since the 1930’s.

In addition to stress, bruxism has also been recently studied in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In a presentation at the 75th annual assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians in November 2009, researchers from Baylor College revealed that nearly 1 in 4 patients with OSA suffers from night-time sleep grinding. It was especially prevalent in men and in Caucasians.

Untreated bruxism can lead to excessive tooth wear and decay, periodontal tissue damage, and temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ). Preventive treatment can include a mouth guard, available both over the counter and through a dental professional, or a splint which is constructed of a hard acrylic and custom fit to both the upper and lower teeth. Stress management and behavioral therapy may also help.

In general, medications are not effective for the treatment of bruxism. A muscle relaxant taken before bedtime may help prevent jaw clenching. Antidepression or anti-anxiety medication may help alleviate stress. NSAIDs may help ease the jaw pain after an episode. For severe cases that have not responded to other medications, botox injections may be useful.

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Comments

I might add that although there are no effective pharmaceutical remedies for the treatment of bruxism, there are many useful appliances worn over the teeth at night that can better control the damaging forces of bruxism. An NTI-TSS is a very useful device.
I had not thought about this aspect of stress. Great Article. I find that if I exercise daily, without missing, then I remain under better control of my stress and anxiety. There are several other things that I have found that work.
Zoloft can cause TMJ too when the does is too high.
I always treated patients thinking on the stress aspect too. Some of those patients, I focused only on stress. Physical exercises (even only a short walk in a park, or anything else like that), jaw exercises, general and specific orientations, usually gave satisfactory results on such stressed patients.