April is Stress Awareness Month. Are you aware of what stress can do to your smile?
Stress creates energy in the body. This energy may manifest as movement, aggression, or even resignation. It may also result in tooth clenching and grinding (bruxism). Clenching the jaw as a result of stress may be a conscious expulsion of energy. More often, however, it is an unconscious reaction to stress. In many cases, it occurs during sleep.
Temporary bruxism isn’t anything to worry about. When it becomes your standard reaction to stress, problems may arise. These include:
- Loose and shifting teeth
- Chipped and broken teeth
- Increased tooth pain and sensitivity
- Flat or unevenly worn enamel
- Gum recession
Bruxism also increases your risk of developing TMJ, a neuromuscular issue that can result in chronic head and facial pain, numbness in the extremities, and changes in posture.
Because tooth grinding is common during sleep, many people are unaware of the habit. When you visit our office for routine cleanings, we can spot signs of bruxism based on tooth wear, jaw alignment, and other tell-tale signs. If bruxism is occurring, we can discuss an occlusal guard to prevent damage when teeth are clenched, along with restorative options to address any damage that has already been done.
An occlusal guard can help prevent damage related to bruxism. Addressing the underlying cause of jaw tension can help ensure the problem does not become persistent. Stress reduction practices can help.
Consider mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga, schedule time to relax every day, maintain friendships and strong social connections, reduce your intake of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, engage in daily exercise (even a daily walk will do), and get enough sleep. These things can all help to both reduce stress and improve our reactions to it, and Stress Awareness Month is a great time to implement new practices that do just that. For more suggestions, visit the American Institute of Stress.
If you suspect you are a tooth grinder, Dr. Larry Evola can help. Please call Forestream Dental at 716-656-8686 to schedule a consultation at our Depew office today.