Many Turn to Teeth Grinding for Stress Relief

Perpetual teeth grinders are in for a lifetime of pain, say dentists.

ByABC News
August 26, 2008, 5:22 PM

Aug. 27, 2008 — -- Sophie may seem like an otherwise carefree 25-year-old, but one look at her worn-down teeth proves otherwise.

"I grind my teeth at night because of stress," said Sophie, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy.

And Sophie is not alone -- dentists told that they often see signs of bruxism, or teeth grinding, and treat the cracked teeth and jaw pain from people who clench their teeth too much.

"The past four or five months have been so stressful," said Sophie, who said her dentist recently pointed out the damage she's done to her teeth from grinding. "It's no coincidence that I grind."

Judy LaRosa, 51, knows how Sophie feels. She says she's been grinding her teeth for as long as she can remember.

"I wake up in the morning and my mouth is killing me," said LaRosa. "My teeth ache and my jaw hurts."

Studies have found that between 5 percent and 12 percent of people suffer from facial pain, known as tempormandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD), which is often caused by teeth grinding, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Dr. Harold Menschel, whose Florida-based dental practice The TMJ & Facial Pain Institute specializes in oral face pain, said that he's convinced the rising levels of stress have increased the number of cracked teeth he mends.

"People today don't have cavities anymore, and we have gum disease under control," said Menschel. "People instead [are] losing their teeth by wearing them down and cracking their teeth."

"It's a huge problem," said Menschel.