There has been an outpouring of information on the relationship between stress and health, but a frequently ignored result of stress is its effect on your mouth, namely through teeth grinding.
The video on the next page from the American Dental Association on the relationship between stress and oral health lays out some of the basics.
Stress and Teeth Grinding
Why, exactly, people grind their teeth when they’re stressed remains something of a mystery, but it’s clear that people experiencing significant stress have a tendency to develop bruxism, or jaw clenching and teeth grinding. This is most frequently seen at night, but can happen during the day, too. Grinding the teeth has a few different effects. First, it can damage your teeth, chipping the enamel and causing the chewing surfaces to degrade. This can lead to sensitivity of the teeth, as well as general pain.
Later Stages: TMJ Disorder
Without intervention, stress-induced bruxism can lead to a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, which is the part of the jaw that hinges open and closed. Symptoms include cracking of the jaw when the mouth is opened, pain and tightness in the facial muscles, and trouble opening the mouth. Another potential result of teeth grinding is myofacial pain dysfunction, which causes similar pain throughout the face rather than in just the jaw.
Steps Toward Improvement
The best way to solve teeth grinding problems is to deal with the root cause of your stress, whether that means making lifestyle changes or practicing relaxation exercises. Massage of the muscle and avoidance of crunchy and chewy foods can also help. Additionally, you might want to talk to your dentist about being fitted for a nighttime mouthguard that can protect your teeth from grinding.
Check out this video about the relationship between stress and oral health from for more information about teeth grinding and what can be done about it.