According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in six American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. A study done by Tel Aviv University researchers has found that social anxiety increases the risk for teeth grinding which can lead to excessive wear on teeth, fractures and jaw pain. This grinding of the teeth can even cause the jaw to move out of place resulting in a TMJ disorder. In the study, 42% of those suffering from social related phobias and anxiety were found to have moderate to severe dental wear.
Preventing the social anxiety that is potentially causing teeth grinding is one step to taking care of the body and mind. There are many professional treatment options for social anxiety as well as methods you can implement at home.
The most standard approach in psychology for treating social anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This involves seeing a therapist in order to help change the way you think. They can help you understand why you are feeling this way and help teach you techniques that can help you cope in situations that give you anxiety.
Some people suffer from anxiety that is so debilitating that it can only be treated with the aid of a prescription medicine. Although it’s a hard and sometimes long path to finding the right kind of medication and the right dose, many find it helps lessen the symptoms and allows them to live a more enjoyable life.
Meditation or Yoga
Meditation with an emphasis on mindfulness is all about being hyper-aware of what is going on inside of you and around you. Paying close attention to what is going on both inside and outside will allow you to step outside of yourself and observe the situation from a calmer more neutral point-of-view. Yoga can also help you learn breathing techniques and practice finding your calm and relaxed center which can then be applied to situations that evoke anxiety.
Sometimes, anxiety can occur even when we aren’t awake. Sleep bruxism, or grinding the teeth during sleep, can be extremely damaging to the teeth, jaw and overall health due to loss of relaxed, restful sleep. While it isn’t always caused by the stress or anxiety, the adverse effect on your health is consistent no matter the cause. Because it occurs during sleep, many don’t even realize it’s happening. Some of the symptoms include tooth sensitivity, jaw or facial soreness, fatigued muscles, earache, headaches, indentations on the tongue and worn enamel on the teeth. All of these are also telltale signs of a TMJ disorder that can be caused by the grinding of the teeth during the day or night, among other things.
Leading San Diego area dentist Dr. Martin Abelar, DDS, studied and taught the diagnosis and treatment of TMJ at the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. He says,
“Trauma, injury or simply grinding your teeth while you sleep, a condition known as bruxism, may cause the temporomandibular joint to become inflamed or go out of alignment. In neuromuscular dentistry, the goal is to realign the temporomandibular joint without surgery or invasive treatments. This does not just treat the symptoms but identifies a solution for the problem itself.”
Neuromuscular dentistry uses advanced technology to measure the jaws movements and determine exactly the best route for correcting the misalignment of the jaw and balancing the bite back to its natural position. How the jaw opens and closes and where it naturally sits when at rest are all studied during the evaluation. Electromyography is used to gather data about the movement of the muscles in the jaw. X-rays, CT scans, and visible analysis can also be used to get a comprehensive look at the issues causing the chronic pain associated with TMJ disorders.
No matter the cause, grinding of the teeth does permanent damage to the teeth and jaw. If you have thought you may be experiencing any of these problems, talk to your dentist about getting tested for TMJ disorders.