Teeth Grinding, Workplace
Stress Go Hand in Hand
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People
who frequently grind their teeth are more likely to feel stressed
out at work than those who don't clench their teeth, according
to Finnish researchers. What's more, women are more likely than
men to say that they grind their teeth and that their jobs are
stressful, they report.
"We're an uptight and fast-run
society," said Dr. Richard Price, consumer advisor for the American
Dental Association. In an interview with Reuters Health, Price
said tooth grinding is something that worsens as society becomes
more stressful in general.
In the study, researchers gave
questionnaires to more than 1,300 managers, journalists, technicians,
researchers, administrators, and maintenance employees at the
Finnish Broadcasting Company. The respondents had to decide if
they never, seldom, sometimes, often or continually found themselves
grinding their teeth, and they were asked to rate their stress
on a scale of one to five.
Women and employees who reported
the highest levels of stress were more likely to be teeth grinders
than men or their colleagues whose jobs were less stressful, according
to the study in the December issue of Community Dentistry and
Oral Epidemiology. Overall, 26% of women said they ground their
teeth at least some of the time, compared with 17% of men. Nearly
4% of women and 1% of men said they ground their teeth continually.
The amount of tooth grinding did
not vary according to occupation, but employees who reported higher
levels of stress were much more likely to grind their teeth. Both
stress and tooth grinding were more common in female employees,
regardless of age. These employees also spent more time at their
doctors' or dentists' offices.
The researchers note that tooth
grinding may be even more common than the survey suggests, given
that many people grind their teeth or clench their jaws while
Symptoms of tooth grinding include
a dull headache or sore jaw, and can be confused with temporomandibular
joint (TMJ) disorder, which is pain and discomfort associated
with the joint that hinges the lower jaw. "TMJ problems are the
great masquerade," said Price.
With frequent grinding the teeth
will often become smoother and the grooves less defined, but most
people won't notice the change, Price said. "It probably happens
so gradually over time that it appears normal," he said.
Severe cases of tooth grinding
can lead to painful gums and eventually loosened or fractured
teeth. Many dentists will fit patients for mouth guards that they
can wear to bed to protect their teeth.
The best advice for tooth grinders
is to get a grip on their stress, not their teeth, according to
Price. He suggests that patients find ways to relax, such as physical
therapy or exercise to reduce tension. When necessary, muscle
relaxants can be prescribed, but often a hot shower or over-the-counter
pain reliever can be enough to stop the pain, said Price.
"It can be a temporary thing--when
patients come in you have to ask them if they're going through
a stressful time," said Price. "Usually if we make them aware
of it they can stop."
SOURCE: Community Dentistry and
Oral Epidemiology 2002;30:405-408.
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