That Crackling and Popping isn’t the Fireplace; It’s Your Mouth and Holiday Stress!

A hand reaching out of a jumble of holiday lights

Bruxism: The clinical term for grinding and clenching is a common problem during the holidays. How Can You Manage It During The Holidays?

Do you wake up with headaches and jaw pain? Do you have an earache, and does your face feel like you have a sinus infection? Does holiday stress already have you grinding your teeth and holding your jaw more than usual? For many people, holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year. Family gatherings, office parties, events, and special days with friends are fun, but the increased responsibilities and obligations can also cause anxiety and stress.  

It is not unusual during this “festive” time of year for all manner of psychological problems to crop up. Unobtainable expectations, crazy social, and material demands can lead to tremendous stress. Mental health professionals report dramatic increases in depression, fatigue, and anxiety during this time of year. These feelings are often a catalyst for people who clench their teeth. In essence, the much-celebrated holiday cheer can come with unwanted, serious dental problems

Clenching or grinding your teeth as you sleep makes you wake up with tightened face muscles, sensitive teeth, headaches, and even painful spasms in the head muscles. ”During the holiday's many patients come into my office complaining of toothaches and sensitivity,” says San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD.  “The pain that comes from this tightening and clenching of jaw muscles can cause severe tooth and jaw pain. The jaw muscle is so powerful; it can even lead to fractured fillings, crowns, and natural teeth, not to mention the loosening of teeth and recession of gum tissue.” Occasional clenching and grinding of teeth (also called bruxism) is normal for many people, and it is usually harmless. However, when it becomes a regular habit, it can result in the significant teeth damage referred to by Dr. Loev. That constant, dull headache or tender jaw is a pretty good indicator that you are grinding your teeth in your sleep. The fact is many people that brux regularly do not believe that they do. Many people are made aware of their habit by a partner since he or she may hear it clearly as you sleep at night. Other people are made aware by their dentist or in some cases, even an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor) when they seek answers to unexplained and seemingly untreatable discomfort. Telltale signs of bruxism include worn-down tooth enamel, pain similar to an earache, a headache around one's temples and canker sores on the inside of the cheek as a result of biting.

Random dental factoid: Grinding only happens in short bursts; it’s not all night.  Each occurrence may only last for 30 seconds to a minute.  Even if you sleep with your mouth open 90% of the night (doubtful), those 10% when your mouth closes, you might grind the heck out of those teeth.

Preventing and limiting the harmful effects of bruxism is far less expensive and time-consuming than dealing with the consequences of this habit.

Risk factors for bruxism:
Several risk factors increase one’s probability of developing bruxism. The first one is age. Bruxing is very common in children and can progress into adulthood or start during adulthood. High-stress lifestyles, jobs, and relationships can also trigger its onset. Substance usage such as tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, or medications can also increase the risk of suffering from bruxism.

How do I know that I have bruxism?:
If you suffer from the symptoms that we mentioned in this story, visit your dentist. He or she will examine your teeth, gum tissue, jaw, and mouth for tenderness(or pain) broken, missing, and worn teeth or fillings.

Anxiety and stress are by far the most common cause of bruxism. Sleep problems like sleep apnea (involuntary stopping of breathing while asleep) and Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (also called TMJ and denotes problems with the joint connecting jawbone and skull) are a common cause of bruxism. It is crucial to diagnose the cause of one's bruxism before corrective measures are applied.

Your annual or hopefully bi-annual dental cleanings and dental examinations are important for more than just cavity and gum disease detection; these checks allow your dentist and hygienist to monitor the condition of your teeth and keep track of any changes, including those that come from clenching and grinding.

So, what do I do if I’m diagnosed with bruxism?
Chronic, severe grinding damages teeth and leads to tooth loss. It can also distort your smile, hearing, and the temporal mandibular joint-finally changing how your face looks. Once your dentist determines you have bruxism, he or she can fabricate a customized nightguard to halt further damage to your mouth and jaw and alleviate the discomfort in your head. Ideally, your night guard should feel comfortable and should not hurt in the mouth. It is important to note that new habits take between 2-3 weeks to be established. Many patients report that even though their nightguards are comfortable they have a hard time wearing them all night. This problem is so significant that it was actually the topic of one of our first blog posts back in 2017 Hate Wearing Your Night Guard (oral appliance)? I Did Too… Apart from dental protection tools such as splints and mouth guards, there are dental treatment techniques meant for proper alignment of teeth. Teeth realignment may involve braces, orthodontic aligners, or in more complicated situations, oral or orthognathic surgery.  

In addition to the oral appliance, several therapeutic techniques can help treat the bruxism habit. If possible, limit contact with those people that cause you to stress (easier said, for many) exercise, and meditate to release endorphins that help to fight stress and anxiety.


Take control of holiday stress:

Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco’s Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. Over the years they have transformed 100’s of “non-dentist” people into people who enjoy their visits and take pride in their smiles. A dental relationship should be a positive one; make sure that you feel comfortable and cared for by your dentist. If the experience is “meh…” then ask friends, family, and colleagues about their dentist. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist. Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today

Team Loev Team Loev is comprised of highly dedicated professionals who along with San Francisco Cosmetic, Restorative and Implant Dentist Dr. Edward Loev are committed to educating and hopefully entertaining in-person and virtual patients and making their lives a bit healthier and brighter

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