- Dr. Lai
Can Stress Make You Grind More?
Stress. A prevalent emotion felt by almost all of us. It can be caused by events ranging from everyday frustrations to serious life events. It is fairly well known that stress and teeth grinding(bruxism) are related but have you ever wondered why that is the case?
There are numerous studies showing a correlation between stress and bruxism. However, it is not conclusive that stress causes bruxism. With that said, there is substantial evidence showing that stress and bruxism are related. Here are some of the reasons you might be grinding.
Fight, Flight, or…..Grind?
Stress releases hormones such as cortisol and activates our sympathetic nervous system and triggers physical responses such as a faster heartbeat and quickened breathing.
While we are actively stressed, our muscles are tense and prepared for any action, hence the flight or fight response. While our daily stress is usually not caused by a physical threat, our bodies still react in a physical way.
One of the muscles that can tense up from this physical response is the jaw muscle, which may be leading to subconsciously clenching and grinding your teeth.
Stress & Sleep
Stress and sleep make for a bad combination. Stress and anxious thoughts can disrupt our sleep cycles and prevent us from going into deep sleep. Sleep bruxism is most likely to occur in stages of light sleep, according to a 2016 study.
Since, stress causes lighter sleep, and bruxism occurs in these lighter stages, higher stress may be setting the conditions for more teeth grinding while you sleep. And since grinding can lead to lower sleep quality, it can lead to a negative cycle of poor sleep, more stress, and more grinding.
Grinding to Cope with Stress
Another reason that stress may make you grind is that you may be subconsciously using bruxism to cope with stress.
Many studies have shown that chewing for an extended period of time yields decreased cortisol levels. So, scientists reasoned that grinding may actually be a way the body subconsciously copes with stress.
However, this is a theory that requires more research to be validated.
What Can I Do if I Have Stress Bruxism?
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to manage your stress such as mindfulness and meditation exercises. If stress and bruxism are major concerns for you, see how byteSense can help you manage your stress to reduce your grinding habits.