Are you taking your stress out on your teeth?

Are you feeling stressed? If you've been feeling the pressure, you aren't alone. According to the Australian Psychological Society, one in four of us reportedly experience "moderate to severe" levels of stress. Take a look around your office or your social circle, and you'll realise just how much of a percentage that is. 

However, it isn't just the frown lines we have to be concerned about. When stress becomes a considerable burden on our lives it can begin to affect us not just emotionally but physically as well. 

From tense shoulders to sleepless nights, stress can wreak havoc on our wellbeing, and one side effect with long term repercussions is when we start to grind our teeth on a regular basis. 

What is bruxism?

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, puts our teeth through extra wear and tear while we sleep. You will most likely be completely unaware of it while you're asleep, the adverse effects felt only once we open our eyes the next morning. 

The Victorian Government's Better Health Channel estimates that at least the half of us grind and gnash our teeth from time to time, but that there is a concentrated 5% who do so regularly. 

You can usually spot the signs of bruxism by raised flesh on the inside of your cheek from catching it between your teeth, jaw or face pain, headaches that originate in the temples as well as clenching your jaw without realising when you are frustrated or angry, or trying to concentrate.

What are the effects of teeth grinding?

Bruxism can be accompanied by a stiff, aching jaw as well as headaches and neck pain. In addition, the hard biting surface of your teeth is worn down faster through clenching and grinding, meaning that teeth can wear at a significantly faster rate than those without bruxism.

Tooth sensitivity is another bruxism side effect, as prolonged grinding can expose the more sensitive layers of the tooth when the enamel is gradually worn away.

What can I do about bruxism? 

There can be various causes for teeth grinding, from sleep apnoea to a medical condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder, which is caused by injury to the temporomandibular joint (the connection between the lower jawbone and the skull. This is why it is a good idea to seek the advice of your dentist if you suspect you are grinding your teeth.

If your bruxism appears to be stemming from a place of anxiety or distress, sometimes simple breathing exercises or meditation techniques can be of benefit.

Your dentist may also recommend preventative measures such as a bruxism mouthguard or custom splint. Worn at night, the splint ensures any grinding will only wear at the durable plastic of the mouthguard, rather than the enamel of your teeth.

Everyone will clench their jaw from time to time, but if you believe you are grinding your teeth on a regular basis, your first port of call should be your dentist - not only will they work to discover the root of the problem, but they can also suggest various treatments to help protect your teeth from further damage.