Stress Could Be Ruining Your Teeth

July 21st 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

The stress in your life could be damaging your teeth without you even realizing it. 

Teeth grinding (bruxism) is a common issue, affecting 10 percent of adults and 15 percent of children, according to the American Sleep Association. Stress is a huge factor in teeth grinding; over time it can damage your teeth and jaw, and cause muscle pain. The Bruxism Association says that 70 percent of teeth grinding is related to stress or anxiety, with some studies suggesting it is tied, specifically, to work-related stress. 

Some people grind their teeth while awake, but most people do it while they are asleep—and most don't even know they're doing it. 

  • Teeth grinding while awake: The American Academy of Oral Medicine says that people grind or clench their teeth when they're awake during periods of concentration, anger, or stress, without initially realizing it. 
  • Sleep teeth grinding: This type of teeth grinding usually happens before deep sleep and can occur multiple times during the sleep cycle, according to the American Sleep Association. 

This is why you should see a dentist regularly. 

Because many people grind their teeth during sleep or in moments of stress, sometimes they don't realize they're damaging their teeth until a dentist tells them.

A dentist can recommend a mouth guard and make corrections to existing damage, but long-term treatment may require stress or anxiety management with the help of a professional. Teeth grinding is also linked with other sleep disorders. People who snore, have sleep apnea, or sleep walk are more likely to grind their teeth, according to the Bruxism Association. Young people are also more likely to grind their teeth. 

Teeth grinding in kids could mean they're being bullied. 

A study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation in March found that teens who grind their teeth are more likely to have been bullied at school. The study focused on teens ages 13 to 15 in Brazil, and found that bullied teens in the study were four times more likely to grind their teeth in their sleep than kids who were not bullied. The study found that 65 percent of bullied kids grind their teeth, compared to 17 percent of kids who were not bullied.

"Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have a both physical and psychological impact, and when experienced in childhood, can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood," Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said in a press release. "Grinding teeth may not sound like priority within the wider picture but it could prove to give a vital insight into a child's state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage."

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