Our minds and our bodies do not exist in a vacuum. Mental health is often connected to overall physical health and oral health. One of the many mental health conditions that is connected to physical and oral health is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD and bruxism as well as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) are somehow linked with each other.
PTSD has high prevalence among veterans, making this population of people subsequently more likely to develop bruxism as well. However, PTSD can develop as a response to many kinds of trauma. If you suffer from bruxism as a side effect of PTSD, there are treatments available.
Can Anxiety Cause Teeth Grinding?
Research shows both tooth wear and tooth damage in many PTSD sufferers. In a health assessment of people with PTSD at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, periodontists found increased tooth erosion (Baker 2001). Authors of the study suspect this increased wearing away is due to teeth clenching and grinding as a result of stress.
PTSD is directly related to emotional distress and anxiety, both of which can cause bruxing and TMJ. The type of stress associated with PTSD is typically chronic, which leads to habitual clenching and grinding. Often, teeth grinding happens at night and unconsciously, which is known as sleep bruxism or nocturnal bruxism. You may not even realize that your stress is manifesting through grinding.
Additionally, PTSD can manifest itself as fear or anger, which can cause grinding as well. In this case, the tooth grinding might be daytime bruxism. Sometimes you may be aware that you are grinding your teeth during the day but other times, even daytime bruxism can be subconscious and go unnoticed.
PTSD can cause teeth grinding due to its effects on the central nervous system as well. Stress from PTSD affects the central nervous system which controls muscle function. When your body is constantly in a hyper-alert state, your brain is always stuck in a stressed-out survival mode. In some people, this may result in jaw clenching and/or teeth grinding.
If you find that you experience PTSD and Bruxism together, you might need to seek out solutions for the root cause. Fortunately, treatments are available for PTSD. Because this can be such a debilitating condition, you should seek help as soon as you are able. Your primary care provider will be able to direct you to therapists and psychiatrists who can manage and treat your PTSD.
Some of the common treatments for PTSD include:
- Talk therapy
- Medications such as antidepressants
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Recreational therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
It can feel scary to reach out for help when you have an anxiety disorder like PTSD. Know, however, that working toward treating the condition will help you live a happier, more fulfilled life.
Additionally, if you have PTSD, it’s important to be aware of other related conditions you may be at higher risk of developing, such as bruxism. PTSD and teeth grinding are connected and you need to be sure to keep up regular appointments with your dentist and primary care provider. Seeking treatment sooner, rather than later, is always beneficial in treating these kinds of disorders.
Bruxism and TMJ Disorder Treatments
It might be hard to know if you are a bruxer as a result of PTSD, particularly if you grind your teeth subconsciously at night. Some of the signs to look for include headaches, neck pain, sore facial muscles, tooth sensitivity, and jaw pain. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, especially upon waking up, chances are you suffer from bruxism or TMJ. Your dentist might also notice signs of bruxism or TMJ during your regular cleaning.
One of the best ways to treat bruxism is to first treat the underlying cause. When you are able to successfully identify the risk factors and treat the underlying cause, bruxism may resolve on its own. While you are working on treating PTSD or if you are not able to fully get your PTSD under control, there are treatments that can help reduce symptoms of bruxism and TMJ.
As always, speak to your dentist for advice on treatment options for bruxism or TMJ. Some of the common treatments for these conditions include:
- Mouthguards/night guards
- Occlusal splints
- Relaxation techniques
- Jaw muscle exercises
Your dentist will determine the best treatment for you based on your symptoms and the severity of your bruxism or TMJ. With proper treatment, you should see a great reduction in symptoms. Your dentist may recommend a few treatment options which will work together to address the stress as well as the grinding itself.
Does the VA Provide Support for Bruxism?
If you have developed bruxism as a result of PTSD and you are a veteran, you may be able to get support from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Severe bruxism can be claimed as a secondary result of PTSD. You can check bruxism VA rating and you may be eligible for compensation.
However, bruxism itself is not covered as a primary condition; it must be the result of another condition. Bruxism can also occur as a result of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
What To Do for PTSD and Bruxism
If you suspect you have PTSD and bruxism, visit your healthcare provider and your dentist to learn more about how to control and treat these conditions. PTSD can cause bruxism for a variety of reasons, including stress, anxiety, and central nervous system changes. Treating both PTSD and bruxism will give you the best chance to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
After talking to your dentist, he or she may recommend you start wearing a night guard to protect your teeth while you are sleeping. Night guards are available over-the-counter, through your dental office, and through professional dental labs like Pro Teeth Guard. Night guards from your dental office or a professional lab will be the highest quality and the most equipped to protect your teeth.
- Baker, L. (2001). PTSD Patients Damage Teeth Through Involuntary Grinding, Clenching, UB Study Finds. University at Buffalo. http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2001/03/5063.html
- Lebow, H. I. (2021, July 2). How Does PTSD Affect the Brain? The Physical Effects of Trauma. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/ptsd/the-science-behind-ptsd-symptoms-how-trauma-changes-the-brain#trauma-and-the-brain
- Wynn G. H. (2015). Complementary and alternative medicine approaches in the treatment of PTSD. Current psychiatry reports, 17(8), 600. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-015-0600-2