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How to Protect Your Mouth from Adderall Jaw Clenching
by Dylan Hao |
Adderall and similar prescription medications are effective ways to treat and manage conditions that cause the individual to have trouble concentrating.
These health issues, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, can cause serious disruptions in your day-to-day activities, so anything that helps is crucial.
But, as with most medications, the side effects can be damaging in other ways. One side effect of Adderall is that it keeps your brain active throughout the night, causing clenching and grinding, aka bruxism.
Adderall is a stimulant that activates the dopaminergic and norepinephrine systems in your body (we’ll explain those more later). When these areas are overstimulated, the brain needs activity to release the extra stimulus, so it tells the jaw to clench and grind, causing a condition known as Adderall jaw stretch or clenching.
Without treatment, this can lead to serious problems that damage the teeth, jaw, and connected muscles. However, you don’t need to choose between a medication that works and your oral health. This blog explains the link between Adderall and jaw clenching and how you can protect your mouth from the damaging effects of this problem.
What Causes Adderall Jaw Stretch/Clenching?
Adderall jaw clenching describes certain side effects of FDA-approved stimulant medications like Adderall, Adderall XR, Dexadrine, and Vyvanse. But the actual term for these behaviors is bruxism.
Bruxism is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and you don’t need to be on Adderall or another drug for it to happen. In fact, the most common causes of bruxism are stress and sleep disorders.
Bruxing can also be an adverse reaction to drugs like antipsychotics and those that affect serotonin inhibitors in the brain, like Adderall.
Getting Deep Inside Your Brain
Serotonin is what’s known as a neurotransmitter. These are “messenger” molecules that leave a cell from the neuron, cross a space called a synapse, and enter another cell, telling the new cell what to do.
In the case of serotonin, the new cells are told what kind of mood to have, how to learn and memorize what’s going on in the environment, and other cognitive factors. But serotonin also plays a role in physiological responses, including nausea and vomiting.
How These Hormones Impact You
Serotonin and similar neurotransmitters start in the brainstem and spread through your central nervous system, as do the dopaminergic and norepinephrine systems.
The dopaminergic (dopamine) system modulates your neurons and has a major part in controlling motor function and deciding what you perceive as rewards and motivators. And norepinephrine rounds out your fight-or-flight feelings to decide when you’re in danger and need to be on high alert.
Between these three messengers, it’s easy to see how a brain that’s overstimulated can shock the body into confusion. Should you be attentive? Overly focused? Scared of danger? Ready to be rewarded?
When those systems function normally, you can approach each message individually and decide how to handle them. But when too many or not enough messages are coming through the brainstem at once, the result can be chaotic, and the individual can’t concentrate.
Adderall to the Rescue — Kind Of
Adderall is an amphetamine. It takes the brain from an overstimulated state to a “normal” state by increasing the user’s dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels. At the right levels, the messages that come through tell the cells to focus and pay attention.
Yet, when the medication increases the hormone levels, they need an outlet. That’s when the brain releases excess hormones through clenching and grinding while you’re asleep (and sometimes when you’re awake), and Adderall jaw stretching and clenching begin.
Symptoms of bruxing often occur about three to four weeks after the onset of the medication, but each person’s reactions are different.
What Are the Oral Health Side Effects of Adderall Use?
Grinding and clenching are common behaviors in adults and children, affecting nearly 10% of the general population. Studies show that it can be inherited, but the behavior typically decreases as we get older.
Sleep bruxism is more prevalent than awake bruxing, largely due to the fact that we often can control our actions effectively when we’re aware of them.
Sleep bruxers frequently report pain in discomfort in the jaw joints and muscles, morning headaches, and facial, neck, and shoulder discomfort. Importantly, the jaw clenching and grinding also damage the enamel and gums.
Possible Side Effects of Adderall Jaw Stretching and Clenching
The risk of developing these behaviors increases when you use Adderall. The medication overrides your brain’s normal responses, sending stimulants through the brainstem that need to be controlled.
The body’s response is to clench and grind, releasing the excess stimulants. Over time, if those behaviors aren’t dealt with, they can result in damage to your teeth, jaw, gums, and the muscles connected to them.
Signs that you’re grinding your teeth and stretching and clenching your jaw too much include:
- Fractures and chips in your enamel
- Flattened teeth along the top and bottom edges
- Eroded enamel
- Painful muscles in the jaw, neck, and face
- TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues
- Head and earaches
- Chronic morning headaches or migraines
- Dry mouth
- High blood pressure/increased heart rate (common with stimulant medications)
If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms on a regular basis and you take Adderall, the medication could be the cause. First, let’s look at other reasons behind bruxing to help you decide your next steps.
Could Something Else Be Causing Your Teeth Clenching?
If you are (or your child is) taking Adderall and showing signs of bruxism, it could be related to the medication. But there are other reasons we grind and clench that could be causing the behaviors, too.
Here are five regular bruxism triggers and suggestions to help you reduce the side effects that go along with them.
Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with medications like Adderall and Ritalin. Too much anxiousness or worry causes an imbalance of cortisol, the stress hormone.
As with the other hormones we discussed, those excess chemicals have to go somewhere, so your brain releases them through clenching and grinding.
If you’ve been dealing with a lot of nerve-inducing situations, they could be the cause of your jaw clenching.
Try these stress relievers and damage reducers to see if they help with the discomfort:
- Journaling is an outlet suggested by psychologists to reduce stress and work through emotional issues.
- Gardening boosts your mental health by getting you in the fresh air, calming your mind, and giving you a little exercise.
- Taking a walk or running outside.
- Going to the gym for a high-intensity workout (not too close to bedtime, though).
- Wearing a custom-fit night guard, like those from JS Dental Lab, keeps your upper and lower teeth from touching and gives your muscles a much-needed break.
As your stress levels decrease, so should your clenching and grinding. If it does, your problems weren’t caused by Adderall, after all.
Your Daily Habits
An occasional soda or alcoholic beverage with your meal is okay. But if those and other habits become regular parts of your routine, they may be causing your jaw pain.
Caffeine is a stimulant, triggering your body to get active, even if you’re sleeping. And although alcohol is technically a depressant, it interrupts your sleep patterns and interferes with the sensitive neurotransmitters in the brain. Both alcohol and caffeine will trigger your muscles to become hyperactive, grinding and clenching away.
Smoking and using tobacco are other regular bruxism-inducing habits. Tobacco has nicotine in it, a stimulant that affects the neurotransmitters between your brain and muscles, causing grinding.
Slowly reducing the frequency of all of these products or quitting cold turkey should help stop the bruxing.
Although depression isn’t a “habit,” many people use antidepressants or other means to cope with their feelings. Psychiatric medications, muscle relaxants, illicit drugs, and antidepressants change the neurotransmitters and make you feel better temporarily.
As with Adderall, though, that chemical interference affects the muscle response in your body and triggers jaw clenching and grinding. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. They may be able to adjust your dosage.
Occasional snoring happens to us all (whether we admit it or not). Chronic snoring is a sign of a potential problem, like sleep apnea. Studies show a distinct link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and bruxism.
A characteristic of OSA is frequent arousals — “waking up” between stages of sleep. These arousals and the unstable airway that also comes with OSA increase your stress response, telling your body to tighten up, clench the jaw, and start grinding.
Sleep specialists can diagnose your apnea and prescribe sleeping appliances to keep your airways open, reduce snoring, and stop the grinding.
How Can You Protect Your Mouth While on Adderall?
Still think your symptoms are from Adderall jaw clenching?
It’s possible and definitely something to address with your doctor. They’ll need to know about any side effects so they can monitor your overall health while you’re on the medication.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop taking it.
By the time you get to the point in your treatment protocol where Adderall or other ADHD meds are the solution, you’ve likely tried everything else. Adderall works for you, and you don’t want to give it up. The good news is that you don’t have to.
Natural Methods to Protect Your Mouth From Clenching
You can still protect your mouth from Adderall jaw clenching. Try these natural bruxism reducers to help the side effects go away while your doctor handles the medication part of your health care.
Oral splints called night guards are designed to minimize the contact between your upper and lower teeth.
Your jaw can’t get the traction it needs to grind, so it is forced to take a break. When it does, the attached muscles and joints have time to recover from the strain of grinding and clenching, and the relief you’ll feel is almost instantaneous!
The key here is to ensure you have a custom-fit night guard. Over-the-counter and boil-and-bite guards are one-size-fits-most and can cause more damage than they fix.
The wrong-sized mouth guard leads to pressure sores in your soft tissue and increased muscle tension in your neck and shoulders. Over time, it can push your bite out of alignment.
Buying a professional, custom-made night guard is the safest way to reduce and prevent damage from grinding fast. But going to a dentist to get yours means adding hundreds of dollars in-office visits to your total cost.
Instead, check out our custom kits at JS Dental Lab. We send you everything you the materials to make a mold of your teeth, you return them in the envelope provided, and we do the rest! You get a professional, high-quality, individually-made night guard just like you’d get from the dentist, but without the big price tag.
Treat Your Stress
When too much stress or stimulation is at the root of your clenching, you might not be able to get rid of it immediately. For instance, leaving a toxic work environment isn’t feasible for everyone, but you can’t keep letting the stress damage your body.
You can treat the stress and find ways to release the stimulation. All it takes is a few minutes each day.
Here are some quick ways to get rid of some stress hormones:
- As you’re showering or brushing your teeth, do some squats, toe raises, or other stay-in-place activities (at your safety and comfort level).
- Invest in a water jug that measures your intake. Take sips throughout the day to avoid dehydration and flush your system.
- Park at the far end of every parking lot for a few extra steps.
- If you work at a desk, set a timer for 45-60 minutes. When it goes off, take a two-minute stretch break and stretch.
- Keep some chewing gum on hand if you don’t have TMJ issues. When you’re feeling anxious, chew a stick of sugar-free gum for a few minutes.
When your stress is more than a season, reach out to a mental health specialist. These professionals are in high demand because stress is a serious problem, especially since COVID. If you’re worried about the cost, talk to your HR manager. Many employers offer limited sessions for free.
Taking charge of your mental well-being isn’t a weakness. It shows that you’re strong enough to notice there’s a problem and fix it, just as you’re doing with your jaw-clenching symptoms.
Is the discomfort and pain in your jaw and facial muscles getting to be more than annoying? That jaw clenching and teeth grinding could be caused by meds like Adderall, or it might mean there’s something else going on below the surface.
Whatever the problem, while you’re trying to figure it out, our night guards can help you minimize the damage. Contact us at JS Dental Lab to order yours today!