Stress Causes Many to Grind Teeth

***UPDATED: April 27, 2015*** Thanks to a team in Dublin, Ireland, diagnosing bruxism, or teeth grinding, just got a whole lot easier. Because teeth grinding usually occurs during sleep, many of the billion people who do it are unaware. When left untreated, bruxism can cause severe damage and pain. The new technology, SmartSplint, was developed by researchers at SelfSense Technologies, according to a recent article from the Dental Tribune. The SmartSplint is a mouth guard that contains integrated sensors that measure the patient’s tooth-grinding force when asleep. The sensors gather personalized data that is then sent to a mobile application where a dentist can view the details, having more information to better manage the condition.  Dr. Padraig McAuliffe, founder of SelfSense Technologies, stated that “it can be very difficult to know whether an individual patient has bruxism until we see that some damage has been done. By then it is too late. Early diagnosis and prevention of damage are key.” The company hopes to launch SmartSplint in Ireland this fall, with an international release in 2016.

***UPDATED: April 17, 2013*** Did you know that feeling tired upon waking in the morning is not normal? Sleep is an integral part of achieving and maintaining good health, and doctors are now saying it isn’t necessarily how much sleep you’re getting, but the quality of sleep that is most important.  Sleep apnea is one of the leading culprits of disruptive sleep and a recent study has shown that teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a major indicator for obstructive sleep apnea.  Unfortunately, most people who suffer from sleep apnea don’t actually know it, and only seek diagnosis when their partner can’t sleep through the snoring.  But the range of severity is great, and many cases go undetected, leaving millions of sufferers to cope with chronic lack of sleep.  It may not sound serious, but a good night sleep actually has been shown to improve one’s outlook on life, energy level, patience, ability to cope with stress, appearance, well-being, and how we interact with loved ones.  A sleep apnea diagnosis has often been seen as daunting by patients, as many spend a night at a sleep clinic for observation.  However, with this new discovery, the first step can be as easy as asking your dentist if you grind your teeth.  It’s just that simple.

At this moment in time, many are finding reason to be experiencing an increased amount of stress.  Whether it’s the tough economy, unemployment, the crazy amount of tornadoes wreaking havoc across the Midwest, or simply all of the negative campaign ads that bombard you as soon as you turn on the TV, anxiety-causing triggers seem to be everywhere these days.  One way people tend to deal with their stress is through the grinding and/or clenching of their teeth, or bruxism, and according to the msnbc.com story, “Stress of daily grind takes toll on teeth,” dentists are seeing an increase in this behavior.

The journal, Head & Face Medicine, published a study linking sleep bruxism to on-the-job stress, which many Americans face as several industry’s make cutbacks to stay afloat.  Dr. Matthew Messina, a dentist in the Cleveland-area and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association, acknowledges that he’s seen a significant increase in patients who are showing signs of bruxism through headaches, joint and muscle pain, chipped and broken teeth, and broken fillings.  These are all warning signs for patients to be aware of, as many don’t even realize that they are grinding in their sleep until they break a tooth.  According to the Academy of General Dentistry, about 33% of people suffer from bruxism, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Continued grinding of teeth can result in significant damage to the oral cavity, which may require quite a bit of restorative work, such as crowns or implants.  Some patients seek relief from the stress-induced clenching through the use of a night guard, which is covered by few insurance plans and can run upwards of $400.  The custom-fitted plastic dental appliance might just be the cheapest solution to the problem, as restorative work often costs more.  For some though, simply identifying that they’re under stress can help ease the tension and stop the behavior.  Messina claims that there are techniques that can be taught to assist in breaking the habit as well.  Learning how to relax and manage stress can not only alleviate your oral problems, but will improve your overall health too.

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