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Stress May Cause Teeth Grinding, Study Finds

Feb 4th, 2013

Stress May Cause Teeth GrindingA study in the journal Head and Face Medicine discussed  the possibility that stress  may cause teeth grinding, also known as  sleep bruxism (SB). Finding that it was especially common to people who deal with stress the negative way and most especially to those who use ‘escape’ as their coping-strategy.

Sleep bruxism (SB) is a repetitive movement disorder characterized by grinding or clenching of the teeth during sleep and is usually associated with sleep arousal. It might lead to abrasive tooth wear, hypermobility of teeth, hypertrophy of the masticatory muscles and pain in the masticatory muscles. “Some people are completely unaware that they clench or grind their teeth until check-up shows damage,” says Maria Giraki, co-researcher to the said journal.

Some may refer to bruxism as a habit; however, it is caused when chewing reflexes are activated. During sleep, our reflexes may be active, while our brain control may be inactive. Chewing is a complex activity controlled by neural pathways in the brain. Presently, the etiology of sleep bruxism is not well defined. Different etiological factors have been investigated and at the same time, widely accepted.

Giraki adds, “We have investigated that job related stress is detrimental to good sleep and as a consequence can be responsible for daytime sleepiness. But, it is also a significant factor associated with bruxism.” Researchers found that shift workers who suffered stress due to dissatisfaction with their shift-work schedule were more susceptible to bruxism than those who were satisfied and not stressed.

In most cases sleep bruxism does not cause serious complication but long term and severe bruxism may lead to temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJD. TMJD may cause pain and tenderness of the jaw, pain in & around the ear and a clicking sound or grating sensation when opening the mouth or chewing.

For people who experience sleep bruxism, a dentist can fit a night guard acts as a barrier separating the upper and lower teeth so they can’t come together and cause further damage. For some people, simple relaxation and behavior modification is enough to reduce nighttime bruxism. Finally, it is important to reduce daily stress, learn relaxation techniques, and make facial relaxation a habit throughout the day. Ask your doctor about options to reduce stress. Attending stress counseling, seeing a physical therapist or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.

Source: VISTA Health Solutions

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