Is Stress Grinding your Teeth Away?
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences and everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events can trigger stress.
In the short-term, stress can be beneficial acting as a coping mechanism to potential serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Imagine sitting in an airplane with moderate anxiety before takeoff. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, sends stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to put the body in a state of emergency by preparing you to react quickly. The stress hormones could fire continuously and uncontrollably which could be dangerous for the body
EFFECT OF STRESS ON YOUR DENTITION
The most visible mouth problems that can be triggered by stress are canker sores and fever blisters. Canker sores are small grey or white ulcers that appear in the mouth. They are not contagious, but they can be painful and embarrassing. No one really knows what they are, but dentists and doctors know that they can be triggered by stress. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by a virus that lives in the body. This virus is called herpes simplex and outbreaks are contagious. They are small clusters of water-filled blisters that can appear around or in the mouth.
There are some treatments available, and you should go to your dentist as soon as you see an outbreak of either.
Another problem caused by stress is tooth-grinding and/or clenching of the jaw (also known as bruxism). This is common when you are stressed, and you can grind your jaw in your sleep. Often done unconsciously, you can do this when you are awake as well. If you already clench your jaw, stress can make it much worse. It can lead to the wearing down or fracturing of your teeth.
A big problem with grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw is that it can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint which is your jaw joint. Excessive clenching or tooth grinding can lead to a very painful condition. You get pain in your jaw, your face and even your ear. If you are clenching your jaw or have a tooth-grinding problem, you should see your dentist right away for proper examination and bite guard.
Another way that stress can lead to dental problems is simply not taking care of your teeth because of sadness, stress or depression. It gets hard to take care of everyday things which lead to your personal and oral hygiene neglect.
Some anti-depressant drugs for the treatment of stress can lead to dry mouth (little or no saliva production). You should see your dentist discuss what can be done about it. Saliva is important in the prevention of tooth decay and a dry mouth should not be ignored.
Bite Guard (Stress Guard)
A bite guard is also known as a stress guard, teeth guard, dental guard or night guard.
It is a dental appliance that is provided by the dentist to protect your teeth from excessive grinding or clenching.
As the grinding/clenching happens mostly during sleep, the bite guard is often worn at night
What happens if I grind my teeth and don’t wear a bite guard?
The worse that can happen is that eventually, you will need major restorative work to repair the damage caused by grinding or clenching your teeth.
Symptoms of Bruxism
The most common symptoms of bruxism are:
- Awakening partner with teeth grinding
- Facial or jaw pain
- Tooth wear or fractured teeth and fillings
- Tooth sensitivity
- Loose teeth
- Gum damage
If you suspect you have bruxism, you should set up an appointment with your dentist today