How does stress damage teeth?

Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
The grinding and clenching brought on by high stress levels can encourage the enamel to pop right off a tooth. An exorbitant amount of friction can debilitate a canine, so its neighboring premolars have to fill in. This double workload pushes them in the wrong direction. But they're not made to be moved the way canines can be, and when they're pushed too far, the enamel begins to pop off at the gum line. It's like a ceramic rod being bent at both ends. The result is an abfractive lesion at the gum line, which looks like a v-shaped nick in a tree.

TREATMENT: Canine guidance, which is when the prosthodontist or restorative dentist adds material to the canines, allowing them to separate from the teeth behind it. To prevent it from re-occurring, have your dentist make you a night guard.
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Stress impacts the entire body and can affect quality sleep. Stress can cause the muscles to tighten or spasm which may increase the clenching or grinding motions of the jaw. When teeth clench or grind together in the sleep or during the day, the amount of force is far greater than when they touch during normal eating. Teeth can chip, break, wear down, become loose, and more sensitive from the trauma. A custom fit nightguard can protect the teeth from touching during sleep which helps prevents long term problems that are often more costly. I tell my patients during the day to repeat the saying "Lips together teeth apart" to remind them to relax there jaw and keep the teeth from clenching. Other ways to relax and decrease stress like yoga, pilates, massage therapy, and biofeedback therapy can also help.
Stress and anxiety can cause you to grind your teeth or clench your jaws. This condition is called bruxism, and often it happens as people sleep. In addition to creating a dull headache or a sore jaw, severe grinding can cause teeth to become painful or loose. This can lead to fractures in your teeth. Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep.

If stress is the cause, try to find a way to relax. Physical therapy, muscle relaxants, counseling, and even exercise may help reduce tension.
Stress may lead to teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Doing so can create tooth, mouth and face pain, such as headaches, toothaches or a sore or tight jaw. You can also damage your teeth.

For many people this happens most frequently during sleep. Your dentist can help you by fitting you for a mouth guard, or relaxation techniques or massages can also help. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.