Experiencing stress can damage a person’s oral health, a new study has suggested.
The research, published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, found that those who are more prone to social anxiety are likely to suffer from bruxism and tooth erosion.
A team from Tel Aviv University’s School of Dental Medicine discovered that stressful situations made it more likely that people would grind their teeth, which can significantly damage oral health.
Led by Dr Ephraim Wincour, the researchers found that anxiety in social situations elevates the risk of bruxism, more commonly called teeth grinding, can lead to tooth wear, jaw pain and even fractures.
Dr Wincour said: “This is not a dental problem, but one with clear dental consequences. If we are aware, then we can bring it into consciousness. Psychiatrists can identify patients predisposed to bruxism and can try to help prevent it, and dental experts will immediately know what to treat.”
The team gathered 75 participants and discovered 40 suffered from social anxiety and exhibited behaviours such as gum chewing, nail biting and small jaw movements, as well as tooth grinding.
The remaining 35 acted as a control for the experiment and were assessed with questionnaires, as well as those who experienced stress.
According to the study, the team found moderate-to-severe dental wear in 42.1 per cent of the social phobia subjects, compared to just over a quarter of controls (28.6 per cent).
A third of the stress group were found to experience small jaw movements with no tooth contact (32.5 per cent), while just 12.1 per cent of the controls did. Symptoms of tooth grinding while awake were reported by 42.5 per cent of socially anxious patients and in only three per cent of controls
Dr Wincour concluded: “Interaction with people seems to be necessary to trigger bruxism in socially anxious people. By treating social anxiety, we will be able to treat bruxism as well.” Following on from this study, he will research the effect of post-traumatic stress disorders on sleep and awake bruxism.