Millions of people unconsciously grind or clench their teeth, a condition called bruxism. Because many individuals grind their teeth while asleep, they may not even be aware that they are doing it. While science has known for years that abnormally aligned teeth, sleep apnea and stress can lead to bruxism, a new study has found that people with social phobias are more likely to grind their teeth.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University analyzed 75 men and women in their early 30s—40 of whom had a social phobia and 35 of whom did not. Symptoms of bruxism were reported by 42.5% of those with a social phobia and only 3% of those without. Because interaction with people seems to trigger bruxism in socially anxious people, the researchers concluded that treating social anxiety may help treat bruxism.
Bruxism needs to be treated because people who grind their teeth can wear down the surface of teeth and cause jaw problems; bruxism can even lead to a cracked or fractured tooth. Among the most common treatments for bruxism is a nighttime mouth guard, which we custom make from a dental impression so that it fits your mouth securely. If misaligned teeth are an issue, we may recommend correcting the problem, sometimes with crowns or onlays.
Should stress, anxiety or a social phobia cause you to grind your teeth, the best way to treat your bruxism may be stress management, behavioral therapy or another treatment that addresses the root cause. Strategies that promote relaxation, such as meditation or exercise, can also be helpful. We also recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking at night, because these can intensify tooth grinding during sleep.
Regardless of the cause, it is important that bruxism be treated before it leads to more serious dental problems. To lessen the grinding of your teeth—either while awake or asleep—call our office for an appointment. We can assess your symptoms and propose a treatment that is right for you