Is Stress Taking it’s Toll on Your Teeth?

Bruxism can create up to 10 times more pressure on your molars than chewing
Bruxism can create up to 10 times more pressure on your molars than chewing

Bruxism can create up to 10 times more pressure on your molars than chewing

The economy is bad. Unemployment is high. Real estate values are low… It’s a stressful time for many — if not most — families in America right now. But who’s taking the worst of it? Who — or what — is the biggest punching bag for all our stress? It’s possibly our teeth.

In a recent New York Times article (When Stress Takes a Toll on Your Teeth, By Camille Sweeney, October 7, 2009), Manhattan dentist Dr. Robert Rawdin, reported to have seen “20 to 25 percent more patients with teeth grinding symptoms in the last year. And in San Diego, Dr. Gerald McCracken said that over the last 18 months his number of cases had more than doubled.”

“We’re finding in a lot of double-income families, we have the people who have lost jobs and are worried, and then we have the spouse, who still has the job, with the added pressure and uncertainty,” Dr. McCracken said. “This can cause some real grinding at night.”

Teeth grinding — or Bruxism — is an unconscious act, so most people don’t know they grind their teeth. In fact, most grinders are night grinders, rubbing away at their teeth as they sleep. The only way to distinguish what’s going on is symptomatic. Jaw and facial pain, headaches and earaches are some of the most commonly reported. Perhaps the most damaging affect, however, is the physical wear on the teeth.

Teeth grinders can exert as much as 10 times the amount of pressure on their teeth when the are sleeping as they do when they are eating. Not coincidentally, they can also wear away the enamel on their teeth 10 times faster. Since we only get one set of “adult” teeth that are expected to last us a lifetime, the long term affects of severe tooth wear can be devastating.

So what’s the solution? On the high-end is veneers. Expensive, veneers can repair the look and functionality of your teeth. Unfortunately, veneers won’t help solve the root problem: you’ll still grind your teeth. The most common solution is an occlusal splint, or night guard.

Custom night guards can not only help stop the grinding, they can actually help train the muscles to stop the grinding motion altogether for some patients, eliminating the long term need for the guard.  Night guards are not all the same.  We fabricate guards the fit the lower teeth and are adjusted to the proper bite alignment.

While inexpensive night guards are available over the counter, many are made of soft plastics that can actually increase the chewing and grinding action, compounding the problem.  That’s right, run of the mill guards can make things worse!

Stress can affect us all in different ways, but one of the more common manifestations is the grinding of our teeth. If your teeth show wear in your molars or anywhere else — whether you’re stressed or not — or if you’re getting frequent facial pain or headaches, see a dentist. While over the counter and prescription pain medications can alleviate the pain, they will do nothing to solve the problem, which may well be rooted in your teeth.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Can you please recommend a dental lab that makes the least toxic night guards? Based on the MSDS from the lab my dentist uses, they make their guards out of a double coating plate of PETG and EVA. Are those materials toxic? I think my dentist will order another one for me if I request a specific one.

    Thanks!

  2. Jamie Davidson Says: January 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I contacted my dentist and asked if the mouth guard was BPA-free. They said it was and gave me the MSDS sheet as I requested.

    How can I figure out if they are using the least toxic materials? I really need a mouth guard but tend to live fairly plastic-free. Not sure what to do. I think my best option is to find the least (or close to) toxic mouth guard. The brand of the acrylic one they offer is Talon.

    • What you should be concerned with is the methacrylate in the mouthguards. They give off fumes that can be harmful to your health.

      • Hi there,
        I actually have one of those methacrylate mouth guards, and have been using it for the past 2 years, (since I had to get a tooth side filled in from chipping caused by night grinding.)
        I developed a cyst on my thyroid (biopsy came back inconclusive), and a bad metallic taste in my mouth I can’t get rid of. I think it has something to do with the guard.

        Is there a natural alternative for the guard? A different material?

        Thanks,
        Laurie

  3. rachel gunther Says: March 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Can you tell me what type of material you believe is the safest? I have a mouthguard is acrylic — Methyl Methacrylate — and am also concerend of health issues. thank you

  4. Hello! Do you know if modified ethyl metacrylate monomer and polymer are toxic? These are the materials used to make the night guard my dentists lab makes. Not sure you will get this since this seems to be from 3 years ago. (-: Thanks so muc!!

    • Jenna,

      Most people are sensitive to that material. However it is used in many dental products like retainers, nightguards, dentures, partials etc.

      Consider asking your dentist for a less toxic material.

  5. Amy M. Dorin Says: February 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I have been a clencher & grinder appearently for many years…it is now catching up with me. My dentist told me it is likly my bruxism has caused a fracture at the base of one my front molars. Today I broke a tooth while i was eating (nothing even crunchy) and over the years one other tooth broke while i was eating and one while i was flossing! My jaw also pops every time i open too far. I have been using a night guard from my dentist for a few years but i find i just grind on my front teeth instead of my back when i wear it. I’ve had 3 molars root canaled – one of which was recently extracted because it failed. I do have a GREAT maxillofacial dentist whom i completely trust but feel traditional dentistry just may not work for me. I am only 31 years old and I AM AT A LOSS thinking by 40 I will have no good teeth left. I have signed up for hypnotherapy for my bruxism – PLEASE share any other holistic suggestions!!

    • Hi Amy,

      Your bite is probably out of balance (as well as your neck), which is causing greater bruxing and more damage. I would recommend you see a dentist who is familiar with bite balancing and who works with an experienced chiropractor to help with both the neck and the bite. Once those are in alignment, have a custom fitted bite guard made that is worn on the bottom only and is specifically designed to help keep your bite in balance and prevent damage from bruxing… my guess is that the one you have is making it worse, not better. And without getting everything back in alignment, you’re working against yourself.

      Also, root canaled teeth can become very brittle. If you brux hard on those teeth, they are more apt to break.

      Hope that helps. Good luck.
      Dr. Marvin

  6. I’m concerned that an acrylic night guard may leach toxins into my body, especially since the night guard will be in my mouth for 8 hours at body temperature, which is rather warm. I’m also looking for a night guard that I won’t have to boil because I’m concerned boiling it will also cause it to leach toxins. Which night guard products on the market don’t require boiling and are made from materials that are safe? Thanks.

    • Custom mouth guards made in a lab or dental practice won’t be boiled, but they will be heated to mold them to the shape of your teeth. Unfortunately, there are tons of different materials being used in labs and practices, so the only way to know if they leach toxins is to ask the dentist or lab what materials they use before you have one made.

      Sorry I don’t have a definitive answer for you. Mouth guards are much like composite fillings: there are tons of materials out there and most people don’t know what their’s are made of. For instance, most composite fillings contain BPA or Bis-gma. If you ask your dentist if the fillings contain BPA, they most often say “no,” but upon further examination of the ingredients, they contain trace amounts of BPA or they contain bis-gma. Unfortunately, it’s not like box of cereal, which has the ingredients plainly labeled.

      Good luck in your search.
      Dr. Marvin

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