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Is Anxiety Causing Your Teeth to Chatter? Bruxism Could Be the Cause
by Dylan Hao |
If you have short- or long-term anxiety, you may be grinding and clenching your teeth, a condition called bruxism. Intense grinding overworks the facial muscles and can lead to jaw spasms or, as you see it, chattering.
This kind of behavior is involuntary.
Unlike the chattering that happens when you’re chilly, jaw spasms from severe teeth grinding and clenching need to be treated. Otherwise, you can end up with substantial damage to your mouth.
How do you stop grinding if you don’t know you’re doing it?
This article explains everything you need to know about the link between anxiety and the jaw spasms that cause your teeth to chatter.
Causes of Teeth Chattering
Teeth can chatter for various reasons, from changing body temperatures to muscle spasms. Whatever the reason, if chattering teeth are becoming a regular concern for you, it’s time to dig down and get to the cause of the problem.
Body Temperatures and Your Chattering Teeth
We all have (or are) that friend who is always cold. You know the one — they need a jacket anywhere they go, and they keep blankets in their car “just in case” when everyone else is complaining about being too hot.
But for some people, this perpetual feeling of cold isn’t a laughing matter.
There can be serious health issues that cause your body temperature to drop, leaving you feeling chilly when you shouldn’t be and chattering your teeth.
Understanding Your Body Temperature
Your body keeps its natural state of 98.6°F (or slightly under or over) partly by circulating blood through your veins. This is necessary to keep your systems in “homeostasis,” where everything is “in balance.” External factors can cause this to go up or down, like when you’re outside in extreme temperatures or if you’re sick.
Body temps are regulated through the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that checks our temperature and compares it with what it’s supposed to be.
The hypothalamus decides whether you’re too hot or cold and reacts accordingly.
Sweat glands kick in to cool your skin.
Generate some extra heat by shivering and chattering.
What Throws Your Body Temperature Off?
It’s okay for this temperature adjustment and chattering to happen when you have a fever, have been exercising, or are outside in hot or cold weather.
It shouldn’t happen for “no reason.”
If it does, you could have health problems that are messing up your internal homeostasis, such as:
- Poor blood circulation or blood pressure issues
- Medications causing tremors
- Withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol
- Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease or Tourette’s Syndrome
If you think you may have a neurological condition or decreased blood flow, talk to your doctor.
They can also help you if you’re withdrawing from addiction or your medication’s side effects are causing unwanted tremors.
But teeth chattering can also happen because of panic attacks and anxiety. When your body is consistently stressed, you could be grinding your teeth unconsciously, which leads to this symptom.
Bruxism: The Link Between Anxiety and Chattering
When you know you’re not on a tremor-inducing medication or going through withdrawals — and you’ve already thrown on a few sweaters — the next likely cause of ongoing chattering is bruxism.
Bruxism, better known as “teeth grinding,” can happen when you’re awake or asleep.
Types of Bruxism and Their Causes
Awake bruxism is easily recognizable. You’re stressed or anxious about something, so you clench your jaw and grind your teeth.
You might only notice you’re doing this when it begins to hurt, so you stop the behavior.
It can become habitual when you’re feeling emotional, though. That’s when the tooth damage starts piling up, and you need to get help for whatever is bothering you.
Sleep bruxism follows the same behaviors (clenching and grinding), but because you’re not aware you’re doing it, you don’t notice the pain.
When you’re bruxing while asleep, you can cause significant damage to your body.
Read more: Reasons You May Be Biting Your Tongue In Your Sleep
Stress and Bruxism
Researchers agree that, despite many possible causes (such as sleep apnea), stress is the number one reason people brux.
Stress? What stress?
Here’s the truth.
According to studies in 2022, Americans are “besieged” by stress. When you’re stressed, your body responds by producing cortisol and other hormones.
As much as we all tend to internalize the problems in our lives, we can’t ignore them. They’re there, and if you don’t do activities that lower stress hormones, your body finds a way to get rid of them — through unhealthy methods like bruxism.
Clenching, Grinding, and Chattering
While asleep, your brain does its job to heal your body and bring it back into homeostasis as much as possible. Your muscles and cells are repaired, and your hormones are brought back into balance.
An action must occur to release those unwanted hormones. In bruxers, this action is clenching the jaw muscles and grinding the upper and lower teeth together.
As you clench your jaw muscles, it forces them, the muscles around them, and the delicate temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to work hard.
So how does this cause your teeth to chatter?
In this case, your anxiety is causing you to clench your jaw muscles and overwork them. This creates involuntary muscle spasms, which connect your teeth together in that chattering motion.
What Is the Bruxism-Chattering Fix?
To stop bruxism and the resulting chattering, you must eliminate the cause of your grinding.
Finding methods to soothe your body’s hormone production center is the key if it's anxiety-related.
Studies show that the link between bruxism and anxiety is connected to emotional disorders like PTSD, depression, and phobias.
But many people list their occupation as the number one reason for their stress. Your career may be lucrative and personally satisfying, but also stressful.
Finding ways to reduce anxiety is imperative to reduce bruxism and chattering.
Reducing Anxiety to Stop Your Teeth Chattering
Getting rid of stress is easier said than done, right?
While you shouldn’t discount your problems — which may be too hard to get rid of completely — you can use a few scientifically-backed methods to lower your stress levels.
What’s your current definition of self-care?
Here’s a secret:
It doesn’t have to include hours of your time or money spent at the spa (although it can if that’s what you prefer).
The results of true self-care happen when you consistently show up for yourself. It only takes a few minutes each day to release those pent-up stress hormones.
At-Home Self-Care Tips
This can be as simple as learning a few breathing techniques. Yes, those hee-hee-hees that they teach women in labor really do help!
Deep and methodic breathing signals your nervous system to reduce your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and cortisol and even increasing your pain threshold.
In addition to breathing techniques, try these other simple methods to relax your body and mind (and reduce your stress hormones):
- Exercise — Stimulates the happy hormone dopamine and eliminates cortisol
- Meditation — Relaxes your body, lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol
- Journaling your worries — Releases them on paper, helping you get a better perspective on your problems and manage them
- Taking walks in nature — Gives you the extra fresh air and Vitamin D your body needs, plus working off those stress hormones
Certain herbs and supplements also relieve stress if you don’t have time to do any of those techniques or need a little extra help. Drink chamomile, peppermint, or lavender tea, or use aromatherapy in those scents before bed for deeper slumber and better cortisol release.
When your problems are too much to handle alone, please know it’s okay to ask for help.
The mental health stigma is disappearing. Instead, most of society realizes it takes a strong person to admit they need help, and they applaud and support you for taking those steps.
Professional help with a mental health therapist uses techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to teach you strategies that can help with a potential anxiety disorder and allow you to handle emotional stress.
You may also need medication like antidepressants to get you through this season of life, and that’s okay, too. Stress takes a serious physical toll on your mental and physical health.
You must do what works for you to minimize the damage.
Reducing the Damage From Bruxism
While struggling with stress, you don’t want to add more to your plate with the side effects of bruxism.
Without care, your teeth grinding can become detrimental to your health.
The good news is that, as you’re working through your anxiety, you can do a few simple things to reduce the grinding damage and help stop the chattering teeth.
How to Prevent Grinding
Your bruxing is partly due to an overload of stress hormones in your body when you go to bed. Switching up your bedtime routine can reduce or stop the need for excessive grinding to release those hormones.
Start by creating a relaxing routine that helps soothe your mind. This could include journaling or reading a book, but it shouldn’t include screen time. The blue light and stimulation from a phone or TV screen can increase your stress response, which is the opposite of what you want at bedtime.
If your sleep isn’t restful, consider taking supplements. Melatonin, magnesium, and Vitamin B are a few that are research-backed.
Read more: Easing the Effects of Nighttime Anxiety
How to Reduce Damage From Grinding and Chattering
You may wake up because of the pain of grinding. Even if you sleep through it, the damage occurs. You’ll feel it over time.
Frequent side effects from bruxism include jaw pain, gum disease, eroded enamel, and other dental problems. Without help, broken teeth and upper or lower jaw bone erosion can occur.
Reducing the damage from teeth grinding is possible with a custom-fit night guard.
Over-the-counter and boil-and-bite versions are inexpensive and easy to find, but they don’t work as well because they aren’t made for your unique mouth shape.
The right night guard keeps your upper and lower teeth from connecting, so the jaw doesn’t get the accessibility it needs to clench and grind.
Your muscles get some necessary rest, and gradually, your teeth will stop chattering.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to avoid teeth-grinding damage. Our night guards at JS Dental Lab are professional, high-quality, and delivered directly to your mailbox.
Maintain it: How to Clean Your Mouth Guard
Too much chattering is annoying. But when it’s anxiety-related, it’s dangerous to your mental, physical, and oral health.
While you work on getting to the root of the issue, try these stress-reducing tips and wear one of our custom night guards. This small step to regain control of your body will improve your confidence and reduce your anxiety.