What Your Mouth Says About Your Health: Stress and Teeth Grinding

Even though Christmas has come and gone, we still cannot relax as the stress of life, year-end business development, and planning for 2014 continues. Stress, anxiety, and depression can negatively impact our bodies by making us restless, assume bad habits, and even undergo behavioral changes. But did you know that it can take a toll on your teeth as well?
Like biting finger nails and pulling hair, stress and anxiety can cause a person to unconsciously grind their teeth, a condition also known as “bruxism.” About 40 million people experience bruxism. Studies have shown that teeth grinding typically affect people who have type A personalities. These individuals are more prone to grind their teeth because of their characteristics: excessive ambitions, aggressiveness, drive, impatience, and the need for control. Studies also show that, teeth grinding is more prevalent with patients that experience daily stress like in the work place, unhappy home environments, or unsettled relationships. Failure to resolve or cope with stress can display itself in the form of teeth grinding.
If teeth grinding becomes severe, it can contribute to dental problems such as deterioration of teeth enamel, wearing and weakening of teeth, and damage of gums. It can also lead to headaches, sore jaw muscles that can develop into temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, general facial pains, and tinnitus. Although teeth grinding is a hard habit to break, it can be alleviated and prevented. Dentists may recommend their patients wear mouth guards while sleeping. If necessary, the general dentist may also prescribe medicines and Botox to relax the jaw muscles, thus reducing a patient’s ability to grind their teeth and minimizing the pains of TMJ. It is also recommended that a patient regulate his / her diet by reducing their intake of alcohol, and caffeine. And as with anything, stop smoking.

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