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The relationship between stress, anxiety and teeth grinding

This new year may have you stressed or anxious over completing some of those resolutions. Well be careful, because stress and anxiety are the biggest factors that can lead to you grinding your teeth.

“Most people grind their teeth, to some degree. But probably about one out of every four people grind their teeth to where they’re actually doing some sort of damage to either their teeth or their jaw,” said Dr. Michael Elison, a general dentist with Elison Dental Center in Idaho Falls.

It can cause headaches, jaw soreness and, of course, damage to your teeth.

“Anytime you’re stressed your sympathetic nervous system is active, that’s your fight-or-flight response. So it’s as if you’re being chased by a grizzly bear, because your fight-or-flight response doesn’t know if you’re having a daily hassle or if you’re being chased by a grizzly bear,” said clinical psychologist Dr. John Landers.

Bodily functions like your immune and digestive systems can be effected, and, “All of those functions are necessary, but if you’re chronically stressed they shut down. Therefore your body doesn’t work they way it should,” Landers said.

Which is what happens when people grind their teeth in their sleep. The action becomes involuntary.

“A lot of people don’t realize they grind their teeth because they grind their teeth at night. When they’re asleep they don’t realize it unless they’re told by someone then they don’t really realize it,” Elison said.

The best thing to do with stress, Landers advised, is to perceive it differently and take control of it so you’re not unknowingly harming your body.

“Really it’s about perception. The reality is if I perceive that something is going on and I don’t have the resources to deal with it — I don’t have control — then I’m going to be in distress. So it’s about having the resources or having the sense of control of a situation that causes either stress or not having stress,” Landers said.

Aside from lowering your stress and taking control of it, the best way to physically reduce your grinding, is sleeping with a night guard that is made specifically by your dentist.

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