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Grinding Your Teeth

Stress and Your Teeth From COVID-19 to an exceptionally busy hurricane season and so many other bombshells, 2020 has certainly been a difficult year for many. And all that stress can take a huge toll on our physical and mental health. For example, more of us are grinding our teeth than ever before.

Pre-pandemic, about 40 million Americans experienced bruxism – the formal term for teeth grinding and clenching. Bruxism can, in the worst cases, weaken teeth, fracture fillings, crack crowns and destroy dentures. Dentists recently told CNN that they are now seeing double the amount of cracked teeth they typically treat and believe that stress-related teeth-grinding is to blame.

Am I grinding my teeth?

Typically, about 70% of all teeth grinding happens when we’re sleeping. It’s common for people to be totally unaware they are nocturnal gnashers. Some signs you’re griding your teeth (other than a sleep deprived partner telling you so) include a sore jaw, a clicking sound when you open your mouth, a dull constant headache that originates around the temples, tenderness around the sides of your face, increased sensitivity to hot and cold food (or drinks), and even indentations on your tongue.

What should I do about tooth grinding?

An occasional bout with bruxism is normal, given the times we live in. But if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should see your dentist. The most common preventative treatment for severe cases of teeth grinding is to wear what’s called “a night bite plate” or a “bite splint.” Your dentist can fit one for you – some fit over the bottom teeth, others go on the top. In general, they work by compensating for misaligned teeth or by keeping your jaw more relaxed.

Your dentist or another member of your healthcare team may also recommend relaxation exercises such as yoga, improvements to your sleep hygiene, or therapy to help you better manage stress.

Keeping your teeth healthy during stressful times

Your body goes into caveperson mode when you’re stressed out. Your brain prompts your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol that are useful in helping you to fight the threat or run away from it very quickly. But an overabundance of adrenaline in your system can cause you to grind your teeth. It can also cause high blood pressure, angina, headaches, upset stomach, heartburn, sore throats (due to dry mouth, which is also really bad for your teeth), and sleep disorders.

Good oral health will help your teeth to resist stress-related damage. Brushing and flossing, done right, plus getting regular dental checkups and professional cleanings are the best ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Restoring a smile after tooth grinding (on a budget!)

If you have managed to crack or chip a tooth, due to tooth grinding or any other reason, your dentist can restore your smile with treatments ranging from bonding, veneers and crowns, or even a brand new replacement tooth if necessary. And if you’ve been putting off seeing a dentist due to cost, you can relax – there is an affordable alternative to paying out of pocket or purchasing pricey insurance. It’s called a dental savings plan! Unlike typical dental insurance, many dental savings plans can reduce the cost of cosmetic care and dental implants. Use our search tool to find out which plan is best for you.

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