Stressing Out Your Teeth?

by DR. SHIKHA BATRA D.M.D

Do you ever wake up with a dull headache, sore jaw and muscles? Do you ever look in the mirror and see fine “cracks” in your teeth? Do you ever find yourself grinding or clenching your teeth? Are your teeth sensitive?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to read this article. What causes clenching or grinding of the teeth and how does it affect your overall health? If you have ever heard the adage “keep a stiff upper lip” or “get a grip” then you know the advice that is given to cope with stress.

Stress is a major cause of people grinding or clenching their teeth. Teeth are cased within the jaw bone. All of the facial muscles are in some way attached or related to the jaw bone. The jaw bone is also attached to the head. All of these interrelationships are affected if stress is placed on any of these structures individually or collectively.

Clenching or grinding of teeth, often referred to as bruxism, often happens as we sleep. Bruxism may also be caused by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, or teeth that are missing or crooked. Severe or long-term bruxism can lead to sensitivity, fractures, and or loosening of teeth.

What are some solutions to bruxism? The most obvious, but most difficult, is alleviate stress from our lives. For most of us, this is nearly an impossible task. Other alternatives include occlusal bite or night guards, physical therapy, muscle relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce tension.

Your dentist can fit you with an occlusal bite or night guard to protect your teeth and decrease tension to facial structures while you sleep. This type of treatment has been successful for many people. The dentist can identify bruxism with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays. The dentist can make a “cast” of our teeth to see how your bite fits together. This cast is often used to create a bruxism appliance (the occlusal bite/night guard) which fits the individual being treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment. It is also very important to obtain a proper custom-fit appliance in order to ensure proper treatment of bruxism. Store bought appliances often cause unequal pressure on facial structures causing more harm than good.

So, visit your dentist today to make sure that you are not suffering from bruxism. Don’t make your teeth the brunt of your stress!

Dr. Shikha Batra is a general and cosmetic dentist practicing in Troy, Michigan. For any further comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to contact her office at 248-362-1100.