Feeling stressed out? Dr. Edwards might be able to tell at your next appointment, even if you never mention it. One of the ways stress can manifest itself physically is through teeth grinding, which can have serious consequences for dental health.
Of course, not all people under extreme stress experience bruxism—the technical term for teeth grinding—and not all people who grind their teeth do so because of stress. In fact, many people grind their teeth do so exclusively at night, and it’s completely involuntary. For those who suffer from nighttime bruxism, the reflex nerve control center in the brain switches off, causing the chewing reflex to activate. This puts a lot of stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and can cause earaches and headaches.
Clearly, bruxism is a painful and unpleasant problem in itself, but unfortunately the pressure it puts on the teeth and jaw can cause another problem: gum disease. The constant grinding can loosen teeth and increase the size of the periodontal pockets, where bacteria can collect and irritate gums and underlying bone. These bacteria inflame the gums, leading to pain, swelling, bleeding, and further gum recession. And where periodontal disease already exists, bruxism can greatly accelerate the progression of the disease.
Besides just contributing to bruxism, stress can actually lead to gum disease as well. Stress compromises the immune system’s ability to fight off disease, making it easier for bacterial infections to creep in. Use of tobacco and alcohol has also been shown to contribute to both periodontal disease and bruxism.
Periodontal disease can be treated relatively easily in its early stages by root planing and scaling (scraping plaque off from where it collects below the gumline), but as it progresses the damage it causes is irreversible. The loss of gum tissue and bone can only be corrected with surgery. That’s why it’s so important to seek prompt treatment if you or your dentist notice symptoms of bruxism. Bruxism is most commonly treated with mouthguards worn during the night to minimize grinding. Once the bruxism is taken care of, gums can be treated for bacterial infection and be given a chance to heal.
For bruxism and gum disease treatment in Indianapolis, don’t wait until the damage is done—schedule an appointment today with Dr. Edwards, your Fishers and Indianapolis periodontist.