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Teeth Grinding: How Stress Can Effect Your Smile

Teeth Grinding: How Stress Can Effect Your Smile

Woman grinding teeth in her sleep
By Dr. Dina Giesler

You probably know how bothersome it is to hear someone snore, but have you ever experienced someone grinding their teeth? – It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Believe it or not, teeth grinding is just as common as snoring. Sleep studies confirm that the majority of people grind or clench during specific stages of sleep. It is also common during the day to clench your teeth together and not even realize you’re doing it.

Many people who suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding) are unaware of the problem or don’t know that there are ways to treat it. Read on to learn more about teeth grinding and how you keep stress from impacting your smile.

Causes. While there is no known direct cause of teeth grinding, there is a distinct link between bruxism and anxiety and stress. Personality traits from hyperactivity to aggression and more can also play a part in the cause. Malocclusion (teeth don’t fit together properly), hormonal changes and prescription anti-depressants have been linked to grinding as well. Clenching and grinding may also be, in part, neurological and unconscious. Grinding, especially the anterior teeth, is a major sign of sleep apnea. Most people clench while they are sleeping, and it can be difficult to stop when they don’t even realize it’s happening.

Signs and Symptoms. Most cases are mild enough not to cause any discomfort; however, symptoms tend to vary based on how long you’ve been grinding your teeth and how often. Symptoms include pain, morning migraines, fractured or sensitive teeth, unusual wear of teeth and gums, and the breakdown of restorations and earaches. Make a note of how often the symptoms occur and the severity of your pain when talking with your dentist.

Complications. If untreated, teeth can fracture, or you may experience chronic headaches and facial pain from tension building in the jaw. This tension can also lead to a more severe outcome, TMJ. TMJ is a condition that causes pain in and around the jaw area, ultimately affecting the way you use your mouth. Grinding increases stress on the ligaments of the teeth and can lead to endodontic therapy and gum abscesses. As you get older, teeth, just like our bones, become more brittle and easier to break. Fractured teeth are becoming a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Treatment Options. There are treatments available within dentistry to ease or possibly eliminate teeth grinding. Splints, mouth and bite guards are the most common treatment and are used to protect the teeth from further wear. Think of these custom appliances made by your dentist as an orthotic for your mouth, and more importantly, stay away from the store-bought ones, as they can make matters worse. Botox may be the most important advancement in the treatment of bruxism as of late. Patients report great results from injection into the master and temporal muscles. Patients who suffer intense discomfort benefit the best from Botox. Talk to your provider about what treatment method may be right for you.

Dr. Dina GieslerDr. Dina Giesler is a Master Dentist of the Academy of General Dentistry. With over 43 years of experience in the dental field, she left her hometown of Houston to relocate to Atlanta in 1999 to open Atlanta Smiles. Dr. Giesler is committed to helping Atlantans achieve not only the best oral care but overall general and aesthetic health and beauty in a sincere, caring and private practice.

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