We've been talking a lot about the economy because it's affecting every aspect of our lives, including our dental health! Recession stress is apparently taking a big toll on the nation's teeth. Medical experts say the number of people who grind their teeth in their sleep has risen sharply since the downturn began. In fact, according to CNN, half of all North Americans now suffer from a condition called bruxism. That’s a fancy term for teeth grinding, and stress is the top reason people do it. With so many people losing their jobs and their savings in the stock market, people have started clenching non-stop. All that grinding can cause headaches, earaches, and even cracked and worn-down teeth. In fact, it can cause such severe jaw pain that you can barely open your mouth. When people grind their teeth, the average force is 250 pounds of pressure. That’s the equivalent of a football linebacker standing on your face! So, how can you protect your teeth and yourself?
- First, wear a night guard. It’s a kind of plastic retainer that helps relax your jaw muscles, and keeps your teeth from grinding against each other, reducing the wear and tear. Custom-fitted ones from the dentist can cost $650. Restorative dentist Dr. Nancy Rosen says that over-the-counter night guards are pretty good. You self-customize it by boiling it, and biting into the warm plastic to mold it to your teeth. However, you still need to see your dentist to make sure it’s a good fit.
- You can also try jaw exercises. You literally move your jaw from side to side. Then alternate between exaggerated “OOH” and “EE” facial expressions to loosen up the muscles.
- Get regular exercise. Studies show that relaxation offers the best relief from stress-related teeth grinding.
- Finally, get regular dental check-ups, especially if you feel pain or tension in your jaw and face, or a mysterious pain on the top of your head. Those are the most common signs that you have a grinding problem.