Linking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to Bruxism in the Military

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Teeth grinding has a name: Bruxism - the involuntary or habitual clenching of the jaw and grinding of teeth, typically during sleep. While bruxism causes can vary between abnormal bite and/or crooked teeth, sleep apnea and heredity, one of the main causes of bruxism in today’s day and age is stress.

We all suffer from stress to some degree or another. While some are capable of managing and transmuting their stress in a way that does not affect their health, many people tend to “vent” their stresses through involuntary physical actions. For a majority of the population suffering from bruxism, the disorder involves involuntary jaw clenching during sleep (often referred to as nocturnal bruxism).

While stress for the average person is one thing, the stress related to PTSD (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) often manifests at an entirely different level. In the past year alone, the number of diagnosed cases of PTSD in active duty military jumped 50% (and that’s only the reported and diagnosed cases). It is thought that the total number of PTSD sufferers among retired military is around 20% of the veteran population.

Research shows that patients with PTSD suffer from a broad array of health issues related to the disorder – one of them being teeth damage due to, you guessed it, bruxism. Many patients suffering from long-term PTSD are seen to have erosion of tooth enamel surfaces due to excessive grinding in addition to a whole host of other oral maladies. And while typical “bruxers” generally only grind at night, research suggests that patients suffering from PTSD exhibit bruxing habits throughout the day and night in direct response to emotional distress and anxiety attacks.

For PTSD sufferers, stress and anxiety comes in many different forms. For some patients, anxiety is a standalone disorder, while for others it is a combination of depression and severe anxiety symptoms. The problem with most anxiety symptoms is that they are usually hidden or suppressed; thereby, bruxism (when unconsciously performed) is the brain’s way of releasing the tension caused by anxiety. However, when bruxism occurs consciously, grinding can be a typical way in which individuals try to manage or escape their uncomfortable feelings.

Additionally, some PTSD patients suffer from uncontrollable feelings of anger or fear. Research suggests people with PTSD that have harbor suppressed anger tend to release this at night by grinding. This is a natural reaction that the mind uses to release tension which cannot generally be controlled unless the root cause of the mental issue is identified and cured.

Solving the issues of bruxism for those with PTSD, particularly those in the Armed Forces, is a rather important undertaking, and that’s why we have partnered with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to provide OTIS custom night guards to veterans who are in need of oral care. PTSD is a debilitating condition, and we believe that doing our part to help assist our brave veterans is our duty. If left untreated, severe bruxism can lead to TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder), the effects of which can be especially painful and damaging, leading to chronic pain in the jaw and face, difficulty opening the mouth fully, discomfort while chewing, headaches and much more. We intend to do our part to ensure that this does not happen to those that have worked so hard to support our country.

If you suffer from bruxism, visit us and order your own custom night guard today. Your smile will thank you.