Stress has many faces; it not only can play havoc with the body but with the mind too – resulting in a host of illnesses ranging from high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks to even teeth grinding. Yes, this may sound strange, but 70% of people who gnash their teeth at night are stressed individuals looking desperately for ways to prevent teeth clenching.
To associate stress with teeth grinding is tough. Moreover, aren’t gnashing your teeth a normal activity? After all, so many clench their teeth when feeling angry, frustrated or stressed.
Your questions are normal for someone who is yet to get familiar with a sleep disorder called bruxism, which in layman’s terms means teeth clenching. Though teeth gnashing is a common habit when feeling angry, etc., bruxism becomes a medical condition when teeth clenching is persistent and loud enough to wake up the partner sharing the same bed or room!
There is another facet to teeth clenching which is medically relevant. Continuous and regular teeth gnashing can severely damage teeth and gums and cause painful jaws, ear as well as result in major headaches. Flattened teeth with chipped edges, broken enamel, etc are some of the tell-tale signs of teeth gnashing at night. Though the activity can happen both during the day and night, nighttime teeth gnashing is more common.
An otherwise purposeless and involuntary activity, teeth grinding involves gnashing one set of teeth against the other using considerable force. The pressure is at times 14 times higher than the pressure used for chewing.
Is prevention possible?
In one way it is impossible to prevent teeth grinding before it happens since you witness its impact only after substantial damage has already been done.
However you can indeed do prevention by taking the following steps:
1. Become aware of what causes it to happen and prevent the causes to invade your life
2. Take medical advice and adopting several self-help strategies; this can prevent further deterioration of the condition.
Learning the causes
Doctors are divided in their opinion regarding causes. On one hand physicians believe that it is caused by stress and associated factors; dentists believe that the problem arises out of misalignment of teeth. Whatever is the cause, knowing the causes helps in prevention.
Factors to be blamed:
– Stress, anxiety, anger and inner unexpressed frustrations.
– Some specific personality types are more prone: hyperactive, aggressive and competitive
– Co-existing sleep disorders like sleep apnea and snoring.
Bruxism symptoms: you know you suffer from the condition when you have…
– Increased teeth sensitivity
– Teeth with broken or chipped corners
– Damaged gums
– Indentations on the tongue
– Pain in the ear, face, jaws and head
Stop teeth grinding: calming the mind is the essence
– Yoga, deep breathing, meditation and Cognitive Behavioral therapy are great ways to reduce stress and prevent teeth grinding by killing the root cause and reducing the frequency and intensity of bruxism symptoms.
– Bite plates to prevent teeth from physically contacting each other during sleep.
Marc MacDonald is an independent health researcher on sleep apnea, snoring, and hypersomnolence among others. To delve deeper into this article’s main topic, please visit his bruxism treatment website.