According to Stress.org, 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, and about 20% of us experience extreme stress. There are lots of bad habits that can develop as we take on more stress: mindless eating, drinking, trouble sleeping, and something that’s extra concerning to dentists — teeth grinding.

The daily grind

Teeth grinding, which is also called bruxism, is common. It isn’t always triggered by stress, but it is a common side effect. Not everyone who grinds their teeth necessarily knows they’re doing it. Sometimes, it’s discovered during a routine check-up, or someone may realize they’ve been doing it after they wake up with a sore jaw.

In my own practice, I’ve noticed a trend that’s even more alarming. Lately, I’ve seen more and more patients with fissures in their teeth from stress-related teeth grinding. In extreme cases, teeth have actually cracked and fillings have broken.

When I ask my patients about their stress levels, I’m not surprised to hear that they’ve been dealing with more than usual. In these cases, I like to recommend a night guard that they can wear at night to help cut down on the damage caused by bruxism. We also talk about some ways they might be able to constructively deal with the stress in their lives, such as self-care, therapy, or addressing their work-life balance.

Is this normal?

I was doing some research online the other day and I saw a question someone had posted in one of those medical Q&A forums. It was something along the lines of, “is having tiny cracks all over your teeth normal?” This person, if I had to guess, is seeing stress fractures or “craze lines” in the enamel of their teeth. This is what can happen if bruxism goes unaddressed.

These small vertical cracks may actually end up leading to stress fractures in the molars, which can look brownish. They are sometimes mistaken for cavities. If these stress fractures are not treated, they could eventually worsen and lead to actual cracks in the teeth. If you have noticed tiny cracks in your teeth, give us a call and we’ll have you come in so we can take a look and give you some recommendations.

A final word

It’s so easy to let stress take over. It’s even easier to let yourself believe that you’re handling it all. The truth is, when we’re stressed, it has an impact on our health. We may not always notice it, but too much stress can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, etc. The good news is that finding an effective way to manage stress does seem to make a big difference! According to WebMD, “heart attack survivors found that taking a stress management class slashed their risks of a second cardiac event by 74%.”

The demands of the modern lifestyle and the increased emphasis on work life balance has created a situation where lines are blurred and we’re working more than ever. It’s up to us to make sure we’re putting our health first so we can life a long and happy life!

Sugar Fix Dental Loft wants to be your Lakeview dentist, so if you have concerns or just need a checkup, please give us a call at (773) 883-1818. You can also set up an appointment online by clicking here!