This is what happens – one of the more common signs of stress is tooth grinding but there’s a good chance you don’t even know you’re doing it, as it often happens in your sleep. However, its effects cannot be underestimated, often resulting in physical symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, gum problems, difficulty chewing, headaches and neck ache, as well as the possibility of ultimately losing teeth, which can have a devastating emotional effect.
If a dentist examined your mouth, they might find teeth that are:
• Sharp or chipped
• Wearing flat and looking shiny and pitted.
The good news is that making a few simple lifestyle changes can be a big help, such as:
• Doing something relaxing before bed, such as yoga, reading or having a bath
• Learning to brush effectively yet gently with a relatively soft toothbrush and a toothpaste that is low in abrasivity (ask your dentist for advice on this if you’re not sure).
In addition, if you’re suffering from sensitivity (which should be diagnosed by a dentist to ensure there is no underlying condition that needs treatment), using a fluoridated mouthrinse every day at a different time to toothbrushing is an effective first line of defence. A desensitising toothpaste used when brushing or applied directly onto a sensitive tooth can also be helpful to calm any sensitivity.
Commenting on this growing problem, Professor Andrew Eder, an expert in tooth wear and Clinical Director of the London Tooth Wear Centre®, said: ‘If you’re worried that your teeth may be wearing, tell your dentist. They are, after all, there to help and will be able to make a diagnosis, provide guidance or refer you, if appropriate.
‘Possible treatment options include the provision of a suitable mouthguard to be worn at night to relieve pressure on the teeth and jaw, prescribing muscle relaxants or recommending care from a physiotherapist or osteopath with specialist knowledge of the muscles involved.
‘If there was one piece of advice above all others I’d offer, it would be this – don’t delay in seeking help. If damage resulting from tooth wear is diagnosed and addressed in its early stages, you can avoid extensive and expensive dental treatment that might otherwise be necessary to correct the situation. The bottom line is that you needn’t suffer alone or long-term.’