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Can Anxiety Cause Teeth Grinding?


Anxiety can cause teeth grinding, also known as Bruxism, as well as jaw clenching. As a result, you may experience facial pain, jaw pain or stiffness in your jaw and surrounding muscles as well as headaches. You may not realise you are grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw and can do so in your sleep.

Why Can Anxiety Cause Teeth Grinding?

The physical responses of anxiety are often triggered by a release of the stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline in the caveman part of our brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.

When our body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode our muscles tense and seize up. This is mostly our biggest muscles so that we can run or fight, but our smaller muscles, like those around our jaw, also tense. For short periods of time this is fine, but the longer the perceived threat lasts, the more sore our jaw muscles are going to be afterwards. When we’re tensing our jaw muscles it’s possible that we’re grinding our teeth together or biting down. 

Another possibility is that you grind your teeth in your sleep, subconsciously stressed, meaning that your jaw and gums are sore when you wake up. Both of these possibilities are prevalent with those suffering with anxiety, however they can also be symptoms of other conditions, so if you’re concerned it’s always best to talk to your doctor.


How Can I Stop This Symptom?

As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing, adopting anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational brain to kick back in and regain a semblance of control and feel the anxiety lift. 

Though this will help short-term, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety and stress occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety and stress. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.

Bloating and related symptoms can also be caused by other factors, so talk to your doctor to find the root cause and therefore the best course of action.