In today’s world, many of us find ourselves juggling the combination of busy work lives, home lives with our families, and social lives. Trying to find a happy balance oftentimes leads to a lot of stress. Naturally we either tend to take our stress out on others closest to us or on ourselves, consciously or surprisingly unconsciously.

In my New York City dental practice, one of the common ways that I see people dealing with stress is by way of teeth grinding or clenching. Stress can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth. Teeth grinding is oftentimes done unconsciously at night during sleep. Clenching can be done at night but is more commonly done during daytime stress. Either way, the friction caused by teeth grinding and clenching brought on as a result of high stress can cause the tooth’s enamel to chip or wear away on the biting surface or at the gum line. Many patients are not aware that they have been grinding or clenching their teeth until their dentist tells them during a routine dental check up or a bed partner tells them (heavy teeth grinding usually has a distinctive sound that others can actually hear).

Signs and symptoms of stress affecting your teeth and mouth:

1. Visible worn enamel on the biting edges of the teeth, especially on the
front teeth.
2. Tooth sensitivity or toothaches
3. Jaw pain or tenderness, especially in the morning
4. Frequent headaches
5. Limitations on opening your mouth wide
6. Popping or clicking of the jaw
7. Changes in your bite and how your mouth closes down

If you suffer from one or more of these, visit your dentist for a consult to see if you may have TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders) also commonly called TMJ Disorder (which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). This is a condition that many people suffer from as a result of stress.

Common Dental Treatments To Prevent A Stress Attack On Your Teeth and Mouth:

Mouth guards
One of the easiest ways to protect your smile from life’s stress is to have your dentist make a custom fitted night guard. This is a plastic appliance that is worn at night (or during the day if need be) to protect your enamel from
chipping or wear. Cost can range from $250-400 and may be covered by dental insurance.

Muscle Relaxant Treatments and Botox
Your dental provider may recommend a variety of muscle relaxant treatments to relieve stress to the mouth and jaws including: massaging techniques, prescription muscle relaxers, heat or cold therapy to the jaw. You may be advised to change your diet to soft foods. Eating softer foods puts less stress on the mouth. Recent treatments also include Botox injections around the jaw/TMJ area. Patients who have tried this method usually report relief of tension in 1-2 days.

Stress is a serious problem and we have to take measures to get it under control. We know that it can not only lead to problems with your teeth, but can and oftentimes does affect your overall health and well being. You don’t have
to deal with stress on your own. Seek the help of your dental team, medical, and counseling team to keep you in tip top shape and manage life’s stress. In my New York City dentistry practice our team is trained to diagnose and offer treatment solutions to protect your smile from stress.