Content reviewed by Dr. Do Sung of Downtown Dental Choice.
Do you find yourself clenching your teeth when you’re solving a complicated homework problem, or does your child grind their teeth in their sleep after a hard day at school? This phenomenon is a common one. Teeth grinding — known medically as bruxism — affects many children and older students alike, and many wonder if the stress of student life could be a cause.
You might not even realize the effects your habit has on your oral health, but once you learn more about bruxism and its consequences, you’ll likely be encouraged to stop grinding your teeth and find healthier ways to reduce your stress.
Can Anxiety Cause Teeth Grinding?
In short, yes. Often, stress and teeth grinding go hand-in-hand. It’s a particularly noticeable symptom of anxiety in students. While young children don’t usually grind their teeth as a result of stress, older children, teens and university students show exceptionally higher levels of bruxism than the general population. Daily stress is perhaps the most significant trigger of grinding among this demographic and into adulthood. You might especially notice teeth grinding before finals and other particularly stressful school events.
How Grinding Harms Your Teeth
While bruxism is not considered dangerous, habitual grinding can significantly damage teeth. As you grind your teeth together, they may fracture, loosen or wear away down to a stump. As the enamel wears down, you may be more prone to sensitivity when consuming hot or cold food and drink. In some cases, you might need bridges, crowns, implants or dentures to prevent further harm.
Bruxism can also have lasting effects on the jaw and bite. Your grinding might cause or worsen TMJ — a condition that causes significant jaw pain and compromised jaw movement — and may even affect your face’s appearance.
How to Reduce Teeth Grinding and Related Pain
If you or your child grind teeth due to stress as a student, you can take several steps to help reduce grinding as well as relieve the associated pain in the meantime. These steps include the following:
- Wear a mouthguard: Your dentist may be able to custom-build a mouthguard for your or your child’s mouth. Since many people’s grinding happens mainly at night, wearing a mouthguard to bed can prevent wear and tear on the teeth. However, this solution will not resolve the grinding itself or alleviate the stress behind it.
- Relax your face muscles: Stress can affect the entire body, although you might not even realize it. Make a regular habit of relaxing your face and jaw muscles throughout the day.
- Find ways to relieve stress: Students face significant amounts of pressure each day. To reduce this stress, find an activity you enjoy that you can do after class. Exercise, yoga and meditation, reading, taking a warm bath or listening to calming music can all help you let go of the day’s stressors.
- Avoid hard foods and caffeine: Hard foods such as candies and nuts can exacerbate jaw pain and other types of discomfort related to bruxism. Likewise, beverages like coffee and soda can worsen unintentional grinding. Avoid these foods and drinks, and drink plenty of water instead.
Talk to Dental Choice About Your Oral Health
If you’re concerned about your or your child’s oral health due to grinding from stress, we may be able to help. At Dental Choice, we have more than 20 years of experience treating numerous dental concerns. We’d be happy to help you learn more about how to reduce wear and tear from anxiety-induced teeth grinding. Schedule your appointment at our location nearest you today.