PTSD and Teeth Grinding

PTSD and Teeth Grinding

The Brux Doc The Brux Doc
5 minute read

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has frequently been associated with trauma from war settings, and combat can certainly cause PTSD. However, PTSD affects many people who have never served in the military or seen combat. In fact, individuals can develop PTSD in response to any traumatic event, including stays in the ICU, domestic or childhood abuse, a car accident, an assault, and a natural disaster.

Whether or not a traumatic event will create PTSD is not a predictable matter. But when it does, the effects can range in severity from mild to severe, with symptoms that include intrusive thoughts, recurring distress, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors. Mild cases cause distress or alarm. Moderate cases impact behavior in a noticeable way. And severe cases impair everyday functioning.

PTSD is, in fact, a more common condition than you might think, and it can begin to manifest years after a traumatic incident occurs. So, if you are experiencing unusual distress or unwanted thoughts, it’s important to see a mental health professional.

How does PTSD relate to grinding your teeth?

Mental and physical health affect each other all the time. That’s why we talk about “ carrying tension ” in certain parts of the body, like the neck and shoulders. Psychological stressors easily manifest as physical pain, such as overly tight muscles or a pinched nerve.

In fact, the relationship goes both ways. There are many links between physical and mental health conditions, such as heart disease and depression, suggesting that the physical can affect the mental and vice versa.

Right now, there is a lot more research that needs to be conducted to fully understand these relationships, but we know it is important to address both mental and physical aspects of an issue.

With this strong link between the physical and the psychological, it’s easy to see how the experiences of PTSD can lead to physical tension, such as clenching and grinding the teeth and jaw.

What are the dangers of carrying tension in the jaw?

Tensing and clenching the jaw (which also involves clenching and grinding the teeth) create a range of issues.

The most visible one is often the damage that grinding does to the enamel of the teeth, wearing it down often time. However, aggressive grinding can even chip and loosen teeth. And the pressure from grinding or clenching can inflame the gums and increase the chances of gum disease or receding gums.

Clenching the jaw can also contribute to issues with the joint of the jaw, known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ disorders usually create pain or clicking in the jaw, and they can interfere with the jaw’s range of movement. They are often referred to simply as “TMJ”—the name of the joint itself.

Often, clenching and grinding is worse during the night than it is during waking hours, meaning you don’t always know when you’re doing it. But worn teeth, irritated gums, jaw pain, neck pain, and face pain can all be indicators of a teeth-grinding issue.

Is there anything you can do about clenching or grinding?

Fortunately, there is. While there’s no known “cure” for teeth grinding, decreasing your stress levels and wearing a night guard can lessen the intensity of grinding and protect your teeth and gums from the negative effects.

Night guards are plastic devices designed to fit over your teeth (usually just the top teeth or bottom teeth, depending on your preference). They protect the teeth from friction and cushion them against the pressure of clenching.

It’s important to invest in a night guard early if you realize that you are clenching or grinding in order to prevent teeth, gum, and jaw problems from developing over time.

But to treat your issue fully, you’ll want to do more than just get a night guard. You also want to address the stressors that are contributing to the physical tension in your jaw. These stressors include anxiety, depression, pressure from work or from relationships, and, of course, PTSD. If you know or suspect you have PTSD, you should seek professional guidance.

Can PTSD be treated?

Good news: there are treatments for PTSD. Your healthcare provider will usually recommend a form of psychotherapy, such as cognitive therapy or exposure therapy. This treatment gives you tools to help you build effective stress management skills, creating ways for you to gain control over your reactions to trauma.

You can work through individual or group therapy, depending on what you and your therapist find most effective. And you may also receive a prescription for medication, such as an anti-depressant, that can address possible imbalances in your brain’s current chemistry.

Seek holistic approaches

Because of the relationship between the mind and body, it is important to choose multiple ways to support yourself in your journey towards better health. And remember: never self-medicate.

Seek professional help, identify people in your life who are beneficial to your well-being, learn about PTSD, and consider ways to improve your routines that will help you take care of your physical and mental health.

If a night guard is one of the things you need, find an easy and affordable option for ordering a custom-made one at TeethNightGuard.

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