Teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) represents a common disorder that can cause serious pain and sometimes even permanently damage a person’s teeth and jaw. According to studies, there is a strong correlation between bruxism and stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression. Although teeth grinding sometimes has no clear cause, it is worth seeking evaluation and treatment from medical professionals including dentists and doctors so you can effectively treat the issue.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

The majority of people who grind their teeth are unaware that they are doing it. Indeed, it often happens while they are asleep or concentrating intently. In this way, bruxism is usually diagnosed by looking out for the following symptoms:

• Earaches
• Headaches
• Facial pain
• Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) – this involves pain and stiffness in the jaw area
• Worn-down teeth, sometimes leading to tooth loss or increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods
• Cracked teeth or fillings
• Sleep disruptions

Sufferers of bruxism usually find that headaches and pain disappear when they stop grinding their teeth. Tooth damage is a sign of very severe bruxism and may require dental treatment.

teeth grinding

How stress and anxiety relate to teeth grinding

It is estimated that around 70% of bruxism cases occur as a result of mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Job-related anxiety is very strongly related to teeth grinding, with shift workers and men, in particular, facing significantly raised risk of developing the disorder. According to research into bruxism, some people are thought to be predisposed to stress-related diseases, especially if they have not developed sufficient coping strategies to handle high workloads or contentious workplace environments.

If you start to develop the symptoms of bruxism described above, you should consider first and foremost whether anxiety is likely to be causing the problem. You may feel unsupported by your boss or co-workers, for example, or you may be experiencing stressful life events such as divorce or debt problems.

Whatever the source of your stress, it is imperative that you seek treatment early to improve your quality of life and avoid significant and permanent damage to your oral health. Beneficial treatments and lifestyle changes could include:

Focusing on your sleep

Bruxism often occurs in conjunction with sleep disorders such as sleep talking, sleep paralysis, and other parasomnias. This can cause daytime fatigue and anxiety and, therefore, create a vicious cycle of poor sleep and teeth grinding. This can be treated by developing good sleep hygiene habits and visiting a sleep specialist.

Altering your lifestyle

Co-factors of bruxism include heavy smoking and alcohol consumption and the use of psychoactive substances including prescription drugs. In this way, making a few lifestyle changes and avoiding these substances could help to reduce stress and treat your bruxism.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic interventions

CBT is one of the most popular ways to treat stress and anxiety without the need for medication. Get in touch with your medical care provider as soon as possible to find a suitable treatment path.

Get in touch today

If you want to find out more about anxiety and teeth grinding, reach out to TMJ & Sleep Solutions today.