Stress and Teeth Grinding, Causes and Prevention

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Stress can really affect your Teeth's Health

Your dentures are not just some bony pearls strung along the length of your jaws, carrying some ornamental objective on to them, they are, in fact, the tools of digestion, for chew breaking the food, right at the entry point of the alimentary canal. The health of your teeth is directly related to the length of your life span, the longer the teeth remain intact and healthy, the more variety of food ( varied nutrition) you can ingest, and the better quality of chew you deliver to the stomach for further digestion.

Though your teeth appear strong, being bony, they are still vulnerable to the impact of mental stress in the long run. Stress is more famously linked with hypertension, hair loss, acne, wrinkles, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Jaws are very sensitive to stress, a lot of sub conscious stress as been found to be held within the jaws than in any other part of the body. Clenching the teeth is synonymous with getting angry or getting a bout of anxiety.

Stress and Teeth Grinding

The effect of stress on teeth is so intense that it can power contract the muscles of the jaws into a pseudo bite which can grind the teeth against each other in the absence of real food material between them. Some experts believe that teeth grinding is more of a genetic issue, still stress can set off grinding and clenching of the teeth known as bruxism.

Teeth grinding is more of a problem of the central nervous system than that of the dentures. Not many know that bruxism ( teeth grinding) can have serious health implications beyond the generally perceived at best a nuisance for the listener and an embarrassment for the afflicted. Its bad affect doesn't only remains confined to the teeth itself, it impacts the entire craniofacial structure of the skull.

Also, since its a subconscious activity, mostly it takes place in sleep, the sufferer has no control over it. Majority of teeth grinders do not even realize that they have this issue till they begin to see symptoms like fragmented tooth or facial soreness. Ironically teeth grinding problem is never seen as a separate issue, it remains hidden behind the more obvious emotional reactions, due to real or perceived stress, like anger, depression, and frustration as one of the ways of expressing these.

Stress triggers release of certain hormones which prepare the body for the flight or fight response, in order to do this they mobilize energy as isometric tension within the muscles, teeth grinding is one of the ways in which this held up energy can be released. Some night grinders can grind their teeth up to 40 minutes of every hour of sleep. Stress can be lethal even for the teeth as this non stop grinding can scrub off the tooth enamel ten times faster than the non grinders.

This can fracture teeth and affect the bite of the grinder. The back molars normally generate a bite pressure of 20-30 pounds per square inch, it can reach up to 200 pounds per square inch in people suffering from bruxism. Though enamel is subject to erosion from normal, daily chewing and biting activities stress induced relentless grinding of teeth can even cause chipped teeth and receding gumlines. Though general thinking dictates that gumline issues can be prevented by sticking to the norms of good oral hygiene.

Collateral Effect of Stress on Teeth

Bruxism can inflict harm over the hinge joint of the jaw ( tempo mandibular joint) along with the damage to the masseter muscles, the largest muscle in the head responsible for controlling the movement of the jaw. This can lead to jaw pain, face pain, ear ache, tinnitus, headache like migraine, and pain in the sinus. The constant workout provided to the masseter muscle due to relentless grinding of the teeth can build it up in size which changes the natural contour of the face, makes it look more square.

Milder forms of bruxism can lead to sleeplessness, heavy perspiration, and symptoms of physical and emotional stress like stress sores in the mouth, stress tongue, and canker sores on the jaws and in the mouth. A lot of sufferers of teeth grinding engage in it in the day time as well while at work, during conversations, while thinking hard, and in cinema theater. Usually the affected person isn,t aware of it till others around him point it out pleasantly or more unpleasantly some times.

People who are prone to bruxism are the one's who carry heavy responsibilities and work load without any opportunities for entertainment, vihar as per yoga, to help diffuse the day long built up stress. Some times it can be very hard to detect the ways stress affects your teeth, a sever wave of jaw pain can be easily attributed to tooth cavity of some infection before long a experienced physician attempts to understand the problem from multiple angles.

Their have been instances of mild seizure - jaws get locked in a tight clench - being associated with grinding teeth stress. Often jaw pain, bruised inner cheeks and persistent headache are accompanied with bruxism.

Ways to Relieve Stress causing Teeth Grinding

Damaged teeth due to grinding can only be re built with veneers, though wearing night guard, also known as occlusion splint, can prevent the damage by reducing grinding, and even train the wearer to stop grinding at all. A night guard is generally made up of hard plastic ( to discourage chewing ) which is fitted, only by a dentist, over the lining of the teeth on both the jaws. The guard works by preventing any contact between the teeth, especially the molars while you sleep.

Some people have found their night guards twisted out of shape from the pressure of the attempt to grind the teeth due to the presence of subconscious stress. The Splints can also be worn during the day if the problem is severe and interferes with you day to day activities. Needling certain acupressure points, medical massage, bio feedback, and hypnosis has been found to relieve the underlying stress which helps solve the problem.

Yoga relaxation techniques like Savasana ( where relaxing the jaws id emphasized for patients of bruxism), and practicing meditation is also a potent technique for diffusing subconscious stress. Work place stress can be easily handled by yoga techniques for stressed out executives. Doctors have found that the the stress centre int he brain is located just adjacent to the part of the brain that controls teeth grinding. Adjusting your lifestyle to facilitating a healthy, deep , and long sleep, practicing simple breathing exercises before going to bed, and chronologically reflecting on the day's events can help de-stress the brain's stress centre.

Conclusion: Stress is the underlying cause that begets teeth grinding, bruxism. Apart from damaging the tooth enamel, propagating tooth cavities, causing headache teeth grinding can lead to pain in the ear. Though dental science has come up with some quick fixes like night guards, and veneers as solutions to the grinding teeth stress problem, yoga relaxation, and meditation techniques still remain the most effective in the long run.

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