Bruxism and Stress

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stressed woman clenching her teeth

Our bodies are profoundly affected by stress during our daily routine. Many times, the effects of this stress can manifest in surprising and subconscious ways that can be compromising to our total health. One of these effects, teeth grinding, is now estimated to affect over 40 million Americans, including both adults and children.

Known as bruxism, from the Greek word for “gnashing of teeth,” the long history of this oral habit is even referenced in the Bible, where “wailing and gnashing of teeth” is recorded 7 times in the New Testament and refers to the sorrow, pain, anger and remorse of those who experience hell. Wow, that puts a visual on how bad individuals who brux feel daily.

Here are the A, B, C and D’s that you can follow to control stress and the damaging effects of teeth grinding:

Aerobic exercise and fitness – A regular aerobic exercise and fitness program has been shown to produce a more competent immune system and circulatory system, increasing the body’s ability to cope with stress. It also helps to improve the rest you get and minimize disturbed sleep patterns.

B-complex vitamins – Supplementing with B complex vitamins has shown a significant effect on many psychological processes, with vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid having the greatest ability to control teeth grinding. All B vitamins interact with each other, and deficiencies of B vitamins have been linked to severe psychological stress including depression and panic attacks.

Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium – Vitamin C, the “king of the vitamin world,” is essential for making the key neurotransmitter dopamine, which regulates mood and the pleasure response, as well as controlling smooth muscle movements. Vitamin C also affects the manufacture of adrenaline and non-adrenaline, which are used by the adrenal glands, that affect our response to stress, as well as the nervous system. The proper balance of calcium and magnesium is also important for a healthy and properly functioning nervous system, and a deficiency in the balance of these minerals can lead to spasm, cramps and muscle tension.

Devote a regular time for meditation  – The effects of quieting the mind and body have had many positive effects on the body’s response to stress. In fact, regular prayer and meditation have demonstrated profound psychological and physiological benefits, including a more highly functioning nervous system, eliciting a “relaxation response” in the amygdala, a small almond-shaped part of the brain that controls our limbic system, the center of our emotions for self-preservation, love and friendship, while keeping fear and anxiety at bay.

Avoiding stress really does have a profound affect on every aspect of your overall well-being, including your dental health. Remembering A (aerobics), B (B complex), C (vitamin C), and D (devote quiet time) just might help you get through some stressful times and save your teeth from the harmful affects of grinding, too.

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