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Keep Stress from Wrecking Your Smile

January 9, 2017

Modern life can be stressful. Although occasional manic Monday is a fact of life, chronic daily stress from demanding professional and personal life may not only spoil your mood, it may also spoil your smile.

Stress can manifest in the mouth as pain, bruxism, gum disease, mouth ulcers and temporomandibular disorders (TMD). One of the most common symptoms of stress that we see at Artful Smiles Dental Studio is Bruxism, a medical term that describes teeth grinding or clenching. It could cause a mild enamel wear or even pain so severe that a person cannot sleep, eat or work.

What causes Bruxism?

Besides stress, Bruxism can be triggered by a few more main factors:

Incorrect teeth alignment

If the teeth are not in correct position and the bite is uneven, the muscles receive a message from the brain to grind the teeth discrepancy away to a more comfortable even position. Over time, this perpetual loop causes more bite unevenness and more muscular tensions.  The best way to correct this is to move teeth back into correct position. That involves something as simple as a minor filing of the tops of the teeth (occlusal equilibration) to braces, which are reserved for extreme cases.

Stimuli and lifestyle choices:

Regular users of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are at higher risk for bruxism. Drinking a few cups of caffeine rich beverages a day might have a similar effect. All of these stimuli can cause disturbance in sleep and therefore increase occurrences of bruxism.

Other medical conditions:

There is a strong link to Obstructive Sleep Apnea and teeth grinding at night.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are wide raging but the main ones are:

  1. Sensitivity to cold, chewing and while brushing teeth
  2. Head and neck muscles soreness
  3. Frequent headaches, neck aches, earaches and shoulder pains
  4. Clicking and popping noises from the jaw joint when opening or closing
  5. Limited jaw opening
  6. Lock jaw when opening wide
  7. Receding gums

What are the treatments?

The treatment must be tailored to the person’s needs.  It is important to be seen by a dentist and that a thorough history is taken. Since there are so many triggers for bruxism, each cause must be addressed appropriately. Dentist’s recommendations can range from a simple fabrication of a custom occlusal guard or a splint to be worn nightly by a patient. Dentists may also recommend braces treatment or a referral to a physician for a Sleep Study.  In most cases, models of the teeth are made for construction of custom night-time splint that is worn to take the load off the teeth and joint. It lowers muscular tension and therefore, it is an effective treatment for most of the side effects associated with bruxism.

Additional treatments could include anti-stress medications, bite adjustment, braces, Botox injections into jaw muscles, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. We also lightheartedly recommend to our patients to try stress reduces such as Tai Chi, Yoga or moving to the Bahamas!

Daily stresses make it all too easy to neglect your dental appointments. Has it really been more than 6 months since your last dental check up?  Artful Smiles Dental Studio makes it stress-free with flexible hours, Saturday appointments and online booking.

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