picture of teeth grinding

Pandemic Stress Puts Teeth Grinding in the Spotlight

Recent stress brought on by COVID has brought bruxism or teeth grinding, into the limelight. Dentists nationwide are noticing an uptick in teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Yet teeth grinding has threatened dental health for centuries, long before this pandemic and it can be caused by more latent stressors.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

Stress is often the reason people grind their teeth. It can be caused by obvious, immediate angst or caused by more hidden triggers, such as the start of your workweek or a change in routine. Stress can impact your oral health overall, resulting not only in teeth grinding but also in jaw tension and a decrease in your immune response.

Teeth grinding often takes place while you sleep. If you wake up with a dull headache or slight jaw pain, you could be grinding your teeth at night. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you may have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and should speak with your dentist and your general practitioner about disruptive sleep patterns, consistent snoring, and uneven breathing at night.

Stressors can signal our brain to react in physical ways, sometimes without us even being aware of these reactions. Jaw clenching and grinding are a couple of common physical manifestations.

Crowded or crooked teeth can also be causes of teeth grinding.

Why is Grinding My Teeth Bad?

Teeth grinding can cause jaw pain, headaches, enamel erosion, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. You can actually break your teeth through grinding.

If you experience jaw pain or notice difficulty chewing, we encourage you to make an appointment so that we can discuss your symptoms and look for any signs of bruxism.

How Can I Stop Grinding My Teeth?

A mouth guard or mouth splint can help reduce teeth grinding.  Other treatments include muscle relaxation techniques.

The more you are aware of stressors, the better. Do whatever you can to reduce the tasks, people, or activities in your life that are pressuring you. For the stressors you can’t eliminate, consider the following ways to reduce the impact of stress:

  • Exercise – fitness really can relieve stress, even just light walking. If trying to work that into your full schedule creates more stress, sneak it in small ways. Choose a parking spot farther from the store so you must walk longer to reach the entrance or talk to a coworker in person rather than emailing him or her.
  • Yoga – short sessions of a yoga workout can be quite beneficial. Don’t worry if you have little flexibility. The mindfulness that results from yoga can release endorphins and the more you attempt yoga, the more flexible you’ll become.
  • Aromatherapy – pleasant scents can temporarily lift your mood and lessen anxiety. Combine pleasing aromas with mindfulness and you’ll likely experience a calming impact almost immediately.
  • Meditation – pay attention to your inhales and your exhales. It forces you to slow down and “regroup.” Make time for thoughtful awareness of your physical health and introspection on blessings in your life.
  • Reduce Caffeine – you may have a sensitivity to caffeine and while its consumption has been shown to enhance mood and alertness, it can harm those with caffeine sensitivities. You may need to limit the amount of daily caffeine you consume.
  • Snack on Healthy, Yet Crunchy, Foods – firm, crunchy fruits and vegetables with high water content can be beneficial to your oral health. Avoid poor food choices like hard candies and pretzels that may contribute to tooth problems.
  • Follow a Social Media Account or Podcast That Offers Humor – laughter and humor are often used as a coping mechanism in stressful situations and it reportedly lowers blood pressure.
  • Keep a Journal as a Safe Way to Vent – get rid of negative thoughts while you also log those things that trigger stress. This may help you avoid or lessen them in the future.
  • Learn to Say No – you don’t need to say yes to every favor someone asks of you. Kindly thank them for having confidence in your abilities and then suggest they find someone who can better dedicate attention to the task at hand since your schedule is too full at that moment.

For most of us, the “unknowns” surrounding this pandemic are beyond our control. Awareness of how the pandemic is impacting your stress levels, however, is in your control. And that alone is a powerful thing.

Call Susquehanna Dental Arts if you’re experiencing any tooth or mouth pain or have any questions.