We all deal with stress in different ways. Commonly, stress can manifest itself in a condition known as Bruxism, which is the grinding, gnashing or clenching of your teeth both either during the day or while you sleep (sleep Bruxism). While most people grind or clench their teeth on occasion, repeatedly doing so is harmful and can result in teeth becoming damaged and cause other oral complications.

Causes of Bruxism

The cause of Bruxism is not always clear and can be the result of a variety of psychological and physical conditions. Possible causes include:

  • Emotions such as stress, anxiety, frustration and anger
  • A coping strategy to deal with the above emotions
  • A hyperactive, competitive or aggressive disposition
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • An abnormal bite
  • A side effect of some medications such as antidepressants and phenothiazines

Signs and Symptoms

If you have Bruxism, you may experience one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching which may wake your sleep partner
  • Jaw or face soreness
  • Tired or stiff jaw muscles
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Dull headaches
  • Pain similar to that of an earache
  • Tips of the teeth appear flat
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your teeth
  • Tongue indentations
  • Painful or loose teeth
  • Fractured teeth
  • Damage from chewing the inside of your cheek

When to see your dentist:

You should make an appointment to see your doctor or dentist if you experience any of the above symptoms. He or she will determine if you have Bruxism and if so, the best course of treatment.

Treatment:

Your dentist will examine your teeth, mouth and jaw and will ask you some general questions about your dental health, the levels and sources of stress in your life and the medications you are currently taking. If you share your bedroom with another person, the dentist may wish to consult with that person as well to determine whether the grinding sounds are often heard during the night. If Bruxism is suspected, your dentist may take an x-ray.

If your Bruxism is stress-related, your dentist can refer you to a professional counsellor or suggest some strategies for stress-management. A specially designed mouthguard may be fitted to help protect your teeth at night. If the condition is the result of tooth problems or the misalignment of your jaw, your dentist will correct this. If you developed the condition as a side effect of a medication, your dentist can recommend you to see your doctor to discuss the possibility of switching medications.