Stress & Your Oral Health- How It Can Affect Your Mouth

what is bruxism

What Is Bruxism?  

Bruxism is a relatively common condition, it which sufferers repeatedly grind their teeth or clench their jaw. This can happen when awake or asleep, and many sufferers are entirely unaware of its happenings.

Sleep bruxism is a type of bruxism disorder that happens exclusively when sufferers are asleep or falling asleep.

Sleep bruxism is classed as a sleep movement disorder, similar to that of restless legs syndrome. Having Sleep bruxism can lead to lower sleep quality, result in waking up with headaches and jaw ache and affect dental health.  

Bruxism disorder is usually categorized under 2 levels; mild and severe. Mild bruxism often goes unnoticed and presents few, low-level symptoms.

Severe Bruxism, on the other hand, can be incredibly frequent and invasive on day to day life, often leading to headaches, jaw disorders, damaged teeth and many other negative symptoms.  

grinding teeth while sleeping

Signs and symptoms common in sufferers of bruxism.  

  • Teeth grinding/jaw clenching that can be damaging to teeth and sometimes loud enough to wake up partners.  
  • Flattening of teeth: Fractured, chipped and lose teeth are also common.  
  • Worn down tooth enamel and sensitive teeth (especially back teeth).  
  • Tired, stiff or tight jaw muscles.
  • A locked jaw that is not able to fully open or close.  
  • A sharp pain that feels like earache but is actually a result of jaw nerve damage.  
  • A dull, long-lasting temple headache.  
  • Cut mouth or tongue caused by misplaced chewing.  
  • Sleep disruption.  

What causes bruxism?  

There is no definitive cause of teeth grinding and bruxism, but health professionals do belie that the condition is a result of physical, mental and lifestyle factors.  

Stress and anxiety.  

The tension that is caused by stress and anxiety can often result in teeth grinding, often during sleep.

The effects of stress and anxiety on both the body and mind can present themselves in many different ways; including bruxism. 


It has been found that the use of certain medications can cause involuntary twitching or tensing of muscles, which can lead to bruxism. 

Teeth grinding and jaw tension is often linked to a particular variety of antidepressant pills known as SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These include sertraline, fluoxetine and paroxetine.

Sleep disorders.  

Having an already established sleep disorder puts you at a much higher risk of developing sleep bruxism, then if you do not.  

Sufferers of Snoring and sleep apnoea are amongst the most common sufferers of sleep bruxism.  

You are also more likely to show signs of sleep bruxism if you:

  • Sleep talk, walk or mumble whilst sleeping.
  • Have violently sleep episodes, such as kicking out or punching the air.
  • Suffer from sleep paralysis.
  • Experience semi-conscious hallucinations, in which you see/hear false things when in between being asleep and awake.


Some lifestyle factors can also lead to bruxism:

  • Drinking alcohol regularly.
  • Smoking tobacco products.
  • Using stimulating drugs, including ecstasy and cocaine.
  • Consuming drinks high in caffeine, including tea, coffee and energy drinks.
  • Weight lifting regularly, or having a strenuous manual labour job.  

Why Teeth Grinding Is Bad.  

Although bruxism does not present a serious threat to health, it can have a serious effect on general wellbeing, and dental condition.  

Prolonged teeth grinding can wear the teeth down and in serious more severe cases, lead to chipping and the loosening of teeth.

What does teeth grinding cause?

  • Dull headaches that can be uncomfortable and difficult to get rid of.
  • Serious jaw and facial pain.
  • Mouth infections caused by cuts in the mouth.  
  • Clicking and obstruction when opening and closing the mouth.
  • Worsening of mental disorders such as stress and anxiety.
  • Other sleep disorders caused by the discomfort. 

The Impact Of Stress On The Body.  

As well as bruxism, and other oral problems, stress can affect the entire body in a range of ways that can be both serious and damaging.  


The tension caused by stress can lead to continuous headaches. 

Increased depression.

Depression and other mental health issues are directly linked to increased feelings of stress. 


Stress leads to an increased production of stomach acid, which can lead to more frequent heartburn.  

Rapid breathing.  

When the mind and body feel stressed, the respiratory muscles can become tense; leading to shortness of breath.

Weakened immune system.  

Suffering from stress long term can significantly weaken the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to infection and sickness.  

Risk of heart attack.  

Because bouts of stress causes an increase in heart rate, chronic stress increases the risk of heart attack, cause from the muscles overworking themselves.  

High blood sugar.

Stress can sometimes cause the liver to release more glucose into the bloodstream. This can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. 

Problems with fertility.  

Stress directly affects the ability of both the male and female reproductive systems to function properly, which can lead to difficulty conceiving.  

Erectile disfunction.

Erectile dysfunction is a common symptom in males, especially over the age of 35 suffering from stress.    

breathing exercises to reduce anxiety.  

Whilst mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques are the usual suggested remedies for conquering stress, simple breathing exercises can be all it takes to significantly reduce the symptoms.  

what does teeth grinding cause

Sessions of deep breathing has been linked directly linked to calming both the body and the mind, as well as many other health benefits.  

By deep breathing, you are essentially re-oxygenating the blood, and calming the mind in the process.

Because breathing comes so naturally (we don't even have to think about it) sometimes we can be breathing poorly without even noticing.

Spending just 10 minutes a day focusing on your breath and breathing deeply can be all it takes to reduce your feelings of stress. 

3 Ways To Manage Stress Before Bed.

Set a sleep routine.

Creating a sleep routine is a great way to manage stress and get you in the right mindset to properly wind down for bed.  

Sleep time is often when stressful thoughts are loudest, and sufferers are affected the most.

By developing a sleep routine, you can teach yourself to switch off from your worries, carry out your before-bed rituals and go to sleep without focusing on anything else other than getting a good nights rest.

A sleep routine might include a hot bath, getting into a comfy set of pyjamas, reading a book and practising some mindfulness techniques.

Anything that you can do religiously every night that also helps you switch off from your worries should be included in your sleep routine.    


Meditation is something that can benefit everyone from all walks of life. 

For sufferers of stress-related sleep troubles, meditation can be an incredibly powerful tool and is one of the best ways to quiet the mind and switch off from stressful thoughts.  

Meditation is an example of a mindfulness technique, which means that it helps people to stop dwelling on the past, feeling anxious about the future, and instead simply living in the now.  

By practising meditation regularly, you will not only relax yourself and improve your sleep quality but also learn how to accept thoughts of stress – simply letting them pass without causing you lasting stress.        

Relaxation techniques.  

Relaxation techniques are not some secret practices that need to be taught; they are instead the most accessible stress relievers available to everyone.  

A relaxation technique is anything that makes you feel relaxed.

This may sound overly simple and much like an invalid point, but the truth of the matter is that most people don't have trouble figuring out what relaxes them, but instead have trouble making time to relax.

If you don't have time to relax, then you will definitely benefit from making that time.

Relaxation should take place every single day, be it a quiet walk, or an intense HIIT session at the gym; all people relax differently!

breathing exercises to reduce anxiety

Some examples of relaxation techniques that can be done every day:

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Walking
  • Cooking
  • Bathing 
  • Deep breathing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Having a hot drink
  • Just sitting (relaxing can be as simple as just sitting still and doing nothing for a few minutes!)

Why is sleep so important?  

Sleep is an incredibly important aspect of general health and well-being; during sleep, both the body and mind recuperate and repair themselves. Without enough high-quality sleep, the body will quickly deteriorate.  

Sleep quality can be greatly affected by factors such as stress. Fortunately, stress can be managed effectively in a number of different ways, some of which are as simple as just breathing!

Reducing stress, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet will significantly improve sleep quality and overall health in the process.