Stress, Bruxism and Your Oral Health

Stress in some individuals can lead to excessive grinding or clenching of teeth – also known as bruxism. While occasional bruxism may not be harmful, when it occurs regularly, it can be associated with moderate to severe dental damage, disturbed sleep, and jaw/facial pain.

The impact of bruxism

If you suffer from bruxism, you may be unconsciously clenching your teeth when you are awake (awake bruxism) or grinding them during sleep (sleep bruxism) preventing an effective night’s rest.  Either way, if this becomes chronic, the disorder can literally wear down your protective enamel – not good.  In some cases, this excessive grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or even loss of teeth. In addition, weakened enamel and tooth damage is often linked to a higher risk of tooth decay and oral infections.

Signs and symptoms 

Because most individuals tend to have sleep bruxism, they’re often unaware of it until complications develop.  It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek dental care as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:

  • Teeth grinding, which may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner
  • Teeth that become flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Jaw, neck or face pain
  • Pain that may feel like an earache, though it’s actually not an ear issue
  • Dull headaches starting in the temples
  • Damage/rough patches on the inside of your cheek
  • Sleep disruption

Causes and treatment of bruxism

While teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it’s important to know that teeth-grinding can also be caused by an abnormal bite, missing tooth, or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by sleep disorders such as snoring or pauses in breathing (sleep apnea). The important thing to remember is that if you encounter any warning signs, talk to your dentist.  It’s important to address any damage that may have happened and discuss the best course of action to prevent any further damage.


Midlothian dentist, Dr. Richard Vacca is always available to answer questions and concerns you have about your dental health.  Whether you are a current patient of Vacca Family Dentistry or simply interested in learning more, feel free to call (804) 739-9191 or contact us here to schedule an appointment.