Stress has a negative effect on the entire body, including the mouth. Stress-related dental habits, such as nail biting, teeth grinding, and jaw clenching can all affect the overall health of the teeth and gums, as well as the jaw and face muscles. Nail biting is associated with additional negative effects, due to the germs that collect under the nail throughout the day. Discussing stress-related behaviors with a dentist can benefit patients with recommendations and options to counter the negative effects of many behaviors.
Bruxism, the grinding of teeth, can be an unconscious habit engaged in when stressed. Some patients don’t realize they grind their teeth because they do so at night during sleep. The signs are clear, however, as the teeth will display worn surfaces from the constant pressure and friction. Over time, the behavior can wear teeth down significantly, weakening the enamel or completely wearing it away. Tooth sensitivity or physical damage eventually results from the weakened state of the teeth.
Jaw clenching can be subconscious and unconscious, occurring when stressed during the day as well as during sleep. The pressure on teeth can loosen them, causing damage to the jaw structure which may result in lost teeth over time. The constant pressure also affects the TMJ, Temporomandibular Joint, which supports the lower jaw. This can lead to lockjaw, clicking, jaw pain, and strain in the facial muscles. When awake, it’s easier to consciously stop a behavior, but when the stress-related problem behaviors occur during sleep, it can prove more challenging.
Some patients don’t realize they have these stress-related problems until they consult a dentist for pain in their teeth, face, and jaw. Dentists are aware of these typical stress-related dental issues and can offer treatment options to help reduce the negative effects. A custom mouth guard, for example, can protect teeth from grinding and is easier for most patients than trying to stop the nighttime bruxism.
Talk to our skilled dentistry team today and learn more about protecting teeth from stress and other everyday life occurrences.