Protect Your Teeth From Holiday Stress: Avoid the Seasonal Grind
The holiday season is a time of year that comes with many things: visits from loved ones, weekly parties, a multitude of shopping trips, long hours spent in the kitchen, and stress-induced bruxism. Stress isn’t always a bad thing; in fact it can even be good in small doses. It can spur excitement, joy, and eager anticipation, and it can even function as that extra bit of motivation that you need to get everything on your to-do list done. Even when the outcome of the stress you are experiencing is positive, the effects it has on you physically can be negative.
What Is Bruxism?
The gradual onset of mild to moderate head and neck aches, jaw pain, and sensitive teeth can signal that stress is beginning to take a toll and that you might be suffering from a condition called bruxism. Bruxism is a condition in which you clench and grind your teeth throughout the day and night. The clenching and grinding can become so hard and loud that it can be heard by partners and loved ones within the affected individual’s living space.
Some individuals only suffer from short bouts of bruxism. But if you begin to experience any of the following associated symptoms with regularity, you should call and set up an appointment with our provider immediately.
Signs and symptoms that indicate you could be suffering from bruxism include:
- Worn tooth enamel
- Face pain rooted at the jawline
- Earache-like pain
- Headache in the temple area
- Sores from chewing or biting the inside of your cheek
- Grinding teeth during sleeping hours
If left untreated, bruxism can lead to more serious conditions that may require extensive and expensive care to resolve. These conditions include:
Damaged teeth: Individuals who suffer from bruxism end up clenching and unclenching their teeth all throughout the night. The pressure they put on their jaws can equate to 250 pounds or more worth of force, which can cause extreme wear and tear on teeth. Tooth sensitivity is the least of the repercussions this type of pressure can have on oral health. Chipped, cracked, and severely worn teeth can result, requiring extensive restorative treatments.
TMJ: TMJ is disorder of the temporomandibular joints that causes pain in the jaw, head, and neck areas. It can cause the jaw muscles to spasm and make it difficult for sufferers to open and close their mouths normally. Treatments may include Botox injections, medications that relax muscles, and protective nighttime mouth guards.
Sleep disturbances: Bruxism ranks as the third most frequent abnormal sleep behavior. Some suffers become aware of their condition after seeking out help for severe sleep deprivation and exhaustion. They have no idea that they have been grinding their teeth at night, nor that it is the cause of their daytime drowsiness.
Who’s at Risk?
Risk factors that increase your likelihood of suffering from bruxism include:
- Age: Bruxism is most common in children but can extend into adulthood.
- Stress level: If you have a high level of stress or an increase in anxiety, you may begin to experience the signs of bruxism.
- Substance intake: Smoking tobacco, drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, or taking medications that have stimulants in them may increase the risk of bruxism.
If your dentist suspects that you have bruxism, he or she will perform an exam and evaluate you for the following:
- Damage to your teeth, the bone that supports them, and the soft tissues inside your mouth
- Pain and tenderness in the jaw and mouth area
- Common dental abnormalities that are often indicators, like broken, worn-down, or missing teeth and poor tooth alignment
If you have signs of bruxism, our dentist may choose to look for changes that may have taken place over the course of your visits. Your exam may include x-rays and questionnaires.
In the case of children affected by bruxism, treatment is rare. The majority of children age out of bruxism. Adults who grind their teeth enough to cause damage and inflict pain have treatment options that include dental protection devices, such as mouth guards and splints, and corrective dental treatment plans designed to align teeth properly. Realigning teeth may require braces and, in severe cases, oral surgery.
If stress is at the root of a patient’s bruxism condition, our dentist will refer them to a therapist that specializes in stress management and behavior therapy. In some cases, medications such as muscle relaxants may also be prescribed.
The holiday season is a time of year to be enjoyed. You don’t have to let the excitement and anticipation take an unpleasant toll. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms that may indicate you are suffering from bruxism, set up an appointment with Dr. David Hanson at your Vancouver dental office today.