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The Link Between Bruxism And Anxiety: What You Need To Know

Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but several other factors can also influence your dental health. People suffer with crooked teeth and jaw problems for many reasons, so it's important to isolate the cause of any problems you're having with your mouth. Orthodontists commonly treat patients who grind their teeth, and research increasingly suggests that anxiety is a big contributor to this problem. Learn more about the link between bruxism and anxiety, and find out what you need to do to deal with the problem.

How bruxism affects your teeth

Many people experience orofacial pain, but it's often difficult to diagnose the cause of the issue. Bruxism (teeth grinding) generally occurs at night, so sufferers are often blissfully unaware that this habit is causing their pain. In fact, according to Psychology Today, up to 10 per cent of the adult population must contend with orofacial pain because of bruxism at any time.

If you grind your teeth at night, you could face serious side effects. During an average night, you may grind your teeth thousands of times with more than 250 pounds of force. This much pressure starts to take its toll on your teeth and jaw. Temporary side effects can include earache, migraines, stiff neck and shoulders and poor sleep quality.

Over a longer period, more serious side effects may occur. You can experience a serious problem with your jaw called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (or TMJ), which can lead to surgery. Tooth wear and tooth loss can also occur, which can result in time-consuming and costly orthodontic treatments.


According to the Bruxism Association, the exact causes of the condition remain unclear to doctors. Research now increasingly suggests that bruxism does not occur because of physical abnormalities or other dental problems. In fact, the condition generally occurs because of psychological issues.

For example, people who suffer with a sleep disorder also commonly experience bruxism. Certain lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of bruxism. People who drink a lot of alcohol or caffeine and smokers may grind their teeth more than other groups.

Research by Tel Aviv University suggests that social anxiety leads to an increased risk of several problems, including bruxism, tooth erosion and jaw pain. Interestingly, if you suffer from social anxiety, interaction with other people can trigger bruxism. The study found that 42.1 per cent of the study participants who had social phobia also had moderate-to-severe tooth wear. 32.5 per cent of this group also had jaw play.

Trauma can also cause bruxism. For example, a car accident can cause problems with teeth grinding, but a variety of social traumas can also lead to the condition. For example, research shows that pre-schoolers who find it hard to adjust to their new surroundings are more likely to grind their teeth.

Awareness of these triggers can help you, your doctor and your orthodontist find the right treatment methods to deal with this problem.

Dealing with anxiety-related bruxism

It's not always easy to stop or prevent bruxism. You may need to consider a range of methods, which, in conjunction, help you stop damaging your teeth in this way.

Many dentists will recommend a dental appliance that stops the teeth grinding together while you sleep. A sleep clench inhibitor (SCI) is a simple device that stops your jaw opening while you sleep, without causing discomfort or other problems. Another alternative is a bite raising appliance (BRA), which is a soft mouthguard that acts as a physical barrier between the teeth.

While these devices can help control the symptoms and prevent further damage, you'll need to consider other types of treatment to get to the cause of the problem. Your doctor or dentist can talk to you about options to cut stress. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Stress counselling
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications that relax your muscles

You'll also need to consider lifestyle changes. Regular exercise can help, as well as a healthier diet. You may need to cut back on foods that are high in caffeine, and you may also need to restrict your alcohol consumption.

Bruxism affects thousands of Australians and can lead to serious, long-term effects. Research now shows that anxiety and other mental issues can increase the risk of this condition, so you'll need to consider a range of options to help you prevent damage to your teeth from grinding. For more information, contact a local clinic like MJ Mylne Dental