Stress Affects Your Teens Teeth

If your teen is dealing with stress and clenching or grinding their teeth, call Drs. James and Samuel Owens at 918.455.7700. Solutions like mouth guards worn at night can help protect your teenager’s teeth from grinding!

Stress affects everyone, and teenagers seem to get an extra dose. Some teens, for example, may have disrupted sleep patterns. Others may regular users of tobacco, alcohol or narcotics.

Side effects from stress have a way of going unnoticed by most--except the dentist. For example, teens who are stressed out may consciously or subconsciously deal with stress by tightly clenching their teeth during the day and grinding them at night, a condition known as bruxism.

Over time, bruxism can wear down teeth and create orthodontic problems or changes in a teen's bite. Grinding can also cause problems with the joint that connects your jaw to your head, just below your ears, the temporomandibular joint (also known as TMJ). Eventually, this leads to "clicking" when the jaw moves, which can really drive a teen nuts. TMJ problems caused by grinding also result in discomfort on the sides of the face, difficulties chewing food and even headaches.

Stress can affect teenagers' teeth in other ways, too. Teens who are under stress might let their regular dental hygiene practices go by the wayside. They may be too stressed to remember to brush and floss regularly. This can lead to increased cavities and gum disease, especially if the teen in question also turns to sugar-laden foods or drinks when anxious.

Studies have shown that stress causes increased dental plaque, even when it's just short-term stress according to a study in the Journal of Periodontal Research. It's possible that this is due to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol or depressed immune functioning.

You can, however, take some steps in these situations to help keep teens' teeth healthy. Get your teen to a dentist for an examination. To address TMJ issues, dentists can provide mouth guards to be worn at night, which should prevent teenagers from grinding their teeth.

And, most importantly, figure out some strategies to help teens deal with the sources of their stress.