(CBS) Stressed out at work? Your teeth might be getting the brunt of your worrying. Dentists all over the country are reporting that they're seeing more patients suffering from teeth grinding - and they're attributing it to the recent economic woes.
CBS Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared some warning signs for teeth grinding and some possible treatments for it with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
According to Ashton, teeth grinding (or bruxism) isn't just limited to the teeth, and can affect surrounding areas.
Some of the telltale signs that you might be grinding are:
• Oversensitive teeth
• Sore facial muscles
• Jaw pain
• Damage to the inside of the cheek
Dentists are noticing increases from 20 percent to a doubling of bruxism cases, and they suspect the economy's to blame.
Teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety. It often occurs during sleep and can be caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.
According to The New York Times, one dentist reported 20-25 percent increase over a year. Another said teeth-grinding cases have doubled in the past 18 months.
Sometimes people find out they're grinding their teeth because their wife or husband hears it at night, but for others, it can be silent.
According to the American Dental Association, many people are unaware that they grind their teeth because they do it while they sleep.
ADA: Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism often occurs at the early part of the night and can disturb sleep partners. The clenching and grinding may be audible. Others make no sound while bruxing their teeth and do not realize they are doing it until a dentist discovers unusual wear spots on their teeth.
Teeth grinding can do all kinds of damage to your teeth. It can fracture or loosen your teeth and it can wear down the cusps of your teeth down to flat stumps.
Repairing this damage (treatments include bridges, crowns, root canals, dentures and implants) can be very costly. Some patients could also develop TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome). In severe cases it can affect your ears and result in hearing loss.
So, what are some ways you can combat the wear-and-tear on your teeth?
• FREE: Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
• LEAST EXPENSIVE: OTC MOUTH GUARDS ($20) You can buy them at your local drugstore, but dentists say they might not fit your teeth properly and you could grind through them a lot more quickly.
• MODERATELY EXPENSIVE: CUSTOM NIGHT-GUARDS (starts at $350-$1000) You will have to go to the dentist for a custom fitting. Studies have shown that they can break the grinding habit.
NOTE from Dr. Zach: Our mouthguards are near the very bottom of this range in price - they are a great value.
• EXPENSIVE: BOTOX ($500 a treatment, every five months or so) Some dentists are starting to use this for extreme cases. It's off-label use and is for extreme cases of teeth-grinding, and it should be done by clinicians who know how to use it.
Our View: I wrote an entry on night guards that you can read here: LINK
I think night guards are an excellent investment for your teeth considering all the damage i see from grinding. It can be difficult for people to notice their teeth wearing down when they see their own teeth every day. Most of the time I only get patients asking about mouthguards when they have pain. Mouthguards can do an excellent job of saving your teeth and preventing expensive treatment to repair the ill effects of bruxism.