By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service
Dentists in North Carolina say they are seeing an uptick in patients with mouth problems stemming from teeth grinding at night, including cracked teeth, jaw pain and headaches.
Amanda Stroud, president of the North Carolina Dental Society Foundation, said while teeth grinding might seem like a harmless side effect of increased stress, the action can cause serious harm over time.
“And that can affect not just the teeth, but the structures that support them and the musculature there,” Stroud explained. “You can see some issues with the TMJ, the temporomandibular joint, that’s the joint that helps you open and close your jaw, and the muscles associated there can get overworked.”
Seventy percent of dentists nationwide say they have seen an increase in patients experiencing teeth grinding and clenching, according to a survey released last year by the American Dental Association.
Stroud pointed to the benefits of a customized night guard, which provides a buffer between the upper and lower teeth and reduces the impact of grinding. She noted it is important to see your dentist to determine what kind of night guard is best.
“A lot of people have valuable dental work that they’ve already done,” Stroud emphasized. “We want to make sure that we can maintain and protect that work, without putting that work at risk.”
She added healthy habits such as exercise, avoiding smoking and staying hydrated can help alleviate stress.
“Sometimes it can be as simple as modifying some lifestyle habits,” Stroud advised. “Getting a little bit more exercise, changing up some habits, relating to a schedule, instead of things being so hectic.”
Research shows people who smoke and drink are more likely to grind their teeth.