Stress and Clenching of Teeth

Being a dentist, I wanted to share my knowledge regarding “clenching of the teeth”, especially since it a stressful time for some during the lockdown. Mostly, this problem is not noticed by an individual. But this can cause a serious problem to the teeth, the muscles of the face and later to the joints which helps in opening and closing of the mouth.

“Clenching of teeth” in medical terminology is known as Bruxism. Most of the time, when one is stressed, angry with someone, or even brooding. This occurs subconsciously. Even the person doing this may not aware of the problem. But this can be noticed by an individual close to the person or by colleagues. If unnoticed for long, it can convert into a serious, harmful habit. Once it becomes a habit, it wears out teeth. There will be sensitivity in one’s teeth, mild pain, tenderness in muscles, and sometimes difficulty in opening and closing of jaws at a later stage. In youngsters, this occurs at night in 80% of the cases. It can get so severe that the person sleeping beside him can hear the voice of tapping the teeth subconsciously. This is also known as “Night grinding”.

Common reasons for clenching
Premature contact on your teeth
Faulty prosthesis
Improper filling in your teeth
Mal-alignment of teeth
Excess physical exercise

How you can come to know about this problem?

The first sign of clenching is the stretching of muscles at the corner of the jaw on both sides, below ears.  The problem gets severe day-by-day, as our body accepts the pattern of clenching as normal not as abnormal. This happens because our muscles tend to adapt to any situation exerted on it once reflex develops from muscle to brain. The brain considers this response normal. This gradually becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, clenching occurs during the daytime too when one talks, reads, walks, or is engaged in daily activities. Gradually, one will notice the flattening of the meeting surface of the teeth. Muscular hypertrophy also occurs.

Treatment for this problem is easier in the initial days. But if neglected, it’s difficult to treat. It eventually may lead to permanent damage to one’s muscle and jaw joints and may be irreversible and not treatable at one point.

The best and first treatment is meditation, yoga and pranayama in the initial phases. Reduce your workload, take proper sleep. It reduces stress and releases hormones that prevent the reflex formation during clenching from the brain. If it’s not resolved by doing these efforts, one should consult a dentist or a physician. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of bruxism. Initially, the dentist starts with one soft splint known as “night guard” on either upper or lower jaw. They then restore wearing-off teeth either by a cap (metal or ceramic covers) on all the teeth, establishing the original level of teeth.

One can take routine analgesic tablets for relief of the pain, but it’s the only a symptomatic solution. The best treatment is to remove the cause. In most of the cases, STRESS is the reason.

I request all the readers not to take stress in this quarantine time.

Dr. Pratik Acharya, MDS
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Prosthodontics, Karnavati School of Dentistry (KSD)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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