Bruxism : caused by Stress, Anxiety and Depression ?

Image shows a person suffering from either stress, Anxiety or depression. All of which are psychological factors that lead to teeth grinding or bruxism.
Psychological factors are scientifically proven to be linked with bruxism.

Are you under constant stress ? Or do you experience anxiety ? Or are you depressed ? Then you have higher chances of developing bruxism. 

Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, depression and frustration have been known to cause bruxism. Today, we aim to explain the mechanism behind how such psychological factors cause teeth grinding and the available treatment options.

Article’s content

What is Stress ?

Our bodies respond to various stimuli that they receive from our surroundings as well as from our own organs. This response can be specific, like sneezing when we come in contact with an allergen. However, our bodies also respond in a non-specific way when they encounter multiple stimuli. This non-specific response is termed stress.

So, you may develop stress from increased workload (external stimuli) or from a pathological condition ( internal stimuli).

But, stress is not always bad. A certain level of stress causes hormones like adrenaline to be released which make you more efficient and productive in your work. When stress exceeds your bodies threshold limit, that’s when it’s negative impact start to affect you.
As everyone’s threshold is different, not all people develop stress under similar conditions.

What is Anxiety ?

Anxiety causes Bruxism in a man who is worried about what will happen next. Anxiety being a psychological factor is a known cause of Bruxism.
Anxiety is the fear of the unknown.

Have you been shaking your legs unconsciously while you wait for your turn at the dentist ? Then you are anxious. Yes, anxiety is simply a fear of the unknown.

Your muscles are usually activated in response to this feared stimulus. This leads to increased perspiration, which is the most common sign of anxiety in a person. Increased heart rate and blood pressure are other most commonly seen signs. This also lead to episodes of fainting.

What is Depression ?

Depression is actually a state of your mind. If you constantly feel sad or if you lose all interest and avoid talking, then you may be suffering from depression.

Depression presents with varied signs in different persons. Thus, if you feel that you might be depressed, then talk about it with your family members, close friend/s or seek professional help. Remember! Depression is the state of your mind, and you can change it.

How do these psychological factors cause Bruxism ?

Bruxism (teeth grinding) is nothing but the activity of biting down hard on your own teeth. This occurs when various jaw muscles are contracted and cause a tight closure of the mouth.

When you are stressed or anxious or depressed, your dopamine levels increase. Now, Dopamine is a molecule that helps in transmitting nerve signals. This increase is a self protective mechanism of your body against stress/anxiety/depression to increase your productivity and keep you in a happy mood.

However, this increase in dopamine has been leads to muscle contraction as nerve signals transmission becomes fast and random.

A girl is depressed by various thoughts and thus grinds her teeth. Depression is a psychological factor that causes awake bruxism.
Depression usually causes only awake bruxism.

In more simple terms, muscle contraction happens as a response to stress or anxiety. When this contraction involves jaw muscles, it leads to teeth grinding.
Studies have shown that stress and anxiety can cause both, sleep bruxism and awake bruxism.

However, depression usually causes awake bruxism as it is associated with our conscious thought process, which happen only when we are awake.

How to treat stress induced Bruxism ?

Image shows a girl meditating to get relief from stress. Stress relief is important as Stress, being a psychological factor, is a known cause of Bruxism.
Stress management is the first step in treatment.

Bruxism is a symptom caused by stress, anxiety, or depression. Thus, it’s important to treat this condition first. Visit your primary health care provider for this. Meditation and yoga can help relieve stress and anxiety.

Meanwhile, bruxism can be treated by using muscle relaxants prescribed by your doctor. Its effects can be reduced by wearing night guards, and pain can be managed with painkillers.

Closing Remarks

Image saying mental health matters. Yes, if you feel depressed then talk about it. Get help. Remember, you are not alone.
Be vocal about your problems. you are not alone.

Numerous scientific studies have established the fact that psychological factors do cause bruxism. Treatment of bruxism involves treating its underlying cause, so be vocal if you have high stress levels, or suffer from depression or anxiety. This will help finding a correct treatment and will protect your teeth from further damage.

References :

Flueraşu, M. I., Bocşan, I. C., Țig, I. A., Iacob, S. M., Popa, D., & Buduru, S. (2022). The Epidemiology of Bruxism in Relation to Psychological Factors. International journal of environmental research and public health19(2), 691.

Published by StephyK

Dentist with years of experience in private dental hospitals.