If you follow our blogs about oral health, you know that dentists can detect potentially serious conditions that affect your entire body simply by looking in your mouth. A new study suggests dentists may also be able to spot bullying.

Bullying has grown into a major problem. It puts countless adolescents under heightened emotional stress. According to the New York Daily News, data collected in Brazil reveals that kids who experience bullying are more likely to grind their teeth while they sleep.

A Strikingly Common Habit

Oral health and bullying: Kids who were verbally bullied were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Oral health and bullying: Kids who experienced verbal bullying were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Researchers looked at the oral health and academic experiences of over 300 children ages thirteen to fifteen.

Sixty-five percent of the bullied students ground their teeth.

“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress,” says Dr. Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “…bullying is a significant contributor here,” he says. “Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it.”

What Causes Bruxism?

An abnormal bite can lead to bruxism. However, dentists usually attribute tooth grinding to stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

In 2017, actor Demi Moore confessed to Jimmy Fallon that over the past two years, stress caused her to grind her two front teeth. In fact, she ground them so hard that her dentist had to remove them. The two, shiny front teeth she sported on The Tonight Show were fake.

Symptoms of bruxism include worn down teeth, hypersensitive teeth and jaw aches. As Dr. Carter said, most bruxism sufferers don’t know they grind their teeth. Not, that is, until someone who sleeps in the same room hears them in the act.

While people usually grind their teeth at night, some sufferers grind their teeth while doing chores or driving, the BBC reported.

A Vital Insight into a Child’s State of Mind

With this new evidence about the likely cause, nonprofits like the Oral Health Foundation are taking action. They are urging parents and school nurses to view these symptoms in children as signs of bullying or other emotionally debilitating problems.

“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact,” Dr. Carter said. Moreover, “when experienced in childhood, [these] can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.”

“Grinding teeth may not sound like a priority within the wider picture,” Dr. Carter added. However, “…it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.”

Grinding teeth could be an important sign for identifying bullying at an earlier stage.

Dentists who detect bruxism may fit the patient with a plastic mouth guard to help protect the teeth. Arguably, the most effective way to break the habit, however, is to relieve stress via exercise, meditation, or even psychological counseling.

The only way to know if you have bruxism or your symptoms are a cause for concern is by going to the dentist at least twice a year. The cost of preventing this and other oral health conditions will far outweigh the cost of repairing damage.

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A startling revelation from a Hollywood actor highlights one of the most prevalent causes of oral health problems: stress.

Demi Moore appeared on “The Tonight Show” in June to chat with host Jimmy Fallon about her new film, “Rough Night.”

But before they discussed her role, Fallon showed the audience a recent photo of Moore smiling with one of her front teeth missing. The 54-year-old then told Fallon that this was the second of her two front teeth she had lost.

Showing how Harmful Stress Can Be

“I’d love to say it was skateboarding or something really kind of cool,” Moore said before confessing to have been so overcome with stress that she “sheared off” her front teeth.

Learn more: Stress and Oral Health

“They happened a year apart but the fact remains that I sheared off both my front teeth,” she added. “Thank God for modern dentistry. Without it, I wouldn’t be smiling on the red carpet.”

Thank God for modern dentistry. Without it, I wouldn’t be smiling on the red carpet.

Speaking of how the second tooth actually came out, Moore told Fallon that she “literally knocked it out. It was almost like it fell out and my warranty was up.”

In addition to comic relief, Moore explained that the photo’s purpose was to show the world just how harmful stress can be.

“I think it’s something that’s important to share, because I think it’s literally, probably after heart disease, one of the biggest killers in America,” she said of stress.

Other Factors Involved

Stress and anxiety can make people neglect their overall health.

Stress and anxiety can make people neglect their overall health.

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can in fact be a product of stress. An abnormal bite, missing teeth, crooked teeth or sleep disorders like sleep apnea can also be causes. People who drink a lot of caffeine are also more likely to grind their teeth. Alcohol has been shown to intensify teeth grinding as well.

Research shows that stress is a cause of up to 70% of bruxism cases. That may be because teeth grinding is a common outcome of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response.

Dr. Gary Glassman, a dentist who specializes in endodontics, told the New York Post that stress was likely not the only cause for Moore’s two lost teeth.

“I would suspect that there were definitely other factors involved,” he said. “[Bruxism] can wreak havoc and when you’re under stress and have a lot of anxiety. That’s the number one reason why people grind their teeth.”

Another reason stress and anxiety pose a danger to oral health is their ability to make people neglect their overall health in general. Someone who is in a bad mood, Dr. Glassman explained, is more likely to forget to brush his or teeth, floss, and show up for dental checkups.

My Dentist, My Therapist

While the precise timeline of Moore’s tooth loss was not disclosed, teeth grinding does have the potential to fracture teeth, loosen teeth, or wear them down to stumps.

Most people who grind their teeth do so at night. In fact, many aren’t even aware they are grinding their teeth until someone who sleeps in the same room hears the grinding noise.


Dental Trauma — Learn all about the various types of oral wounds or distress that may result from a sudden injury.


Your dentist can identify bruxism by observing jaw tenderness or a healthy tooth that seems smaller or duller than normal. Dentists typically fit patients with the condition for mouth guards, which protect the teeth from wearing down as they sleep.

If your dentist finds that stress is a key factor, she might suggest you try an exercise routine or mental health counseling. Any outlet for stress – whether yoga, reading, or playing music – can help decrease the odds of bruxism developing.

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Read next: Oral Health and Bullying: How Dentists Can Spot Verbal Abuse

The observations your dentist makes during a dental exam aren’t just limited to oral hygiene. Certain oral health problems can actually be early signs of increasingly dire conditions. These may effect your entire body, even conditions you didn’t know you had.

Good oral health is an indicator of good overall health. It significantly decreases your risk for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. These range from highly-preventable to life-threatening. The following conditions are just a few that your dentist can detect simply by looking inside your mouth.

Excessive Stress

It is extremely common for people to experience high levels of stress. Therefore it’s difficult to determine when that level becomes unsafe. One way to tell that stress is on the verge of impacting your overall health is bruxism. This is the medical term for teeth grinding. Dentists see bruxism more frequently in patients who have trouble sleeping due to stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

Dentists can detect bruxism when they see a healthy tooth that is smaller and duller than it should be. “The surfaces of the teeth become flat and the teeth get worn down,” Charles Rankin, DDS and professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, told the Huffington Post.

Your dentist might suggest a night guard to prevent bruxism. In addition,  exercise or even psychological counseling can help. Stress management is reportedly the most effective method for eliminating the habit for good.

Acid Reflux

Like severe stress, acid reflux is so widespread that many don’t even know they have it. Your dentist, however, might confirm your suspicions of the disorder. The warning sign: erosion of tooth enamel and dentine, the soft layer beneath the enamel. Acid reflux causes gastric acid, or stomach bile, to move up your esophagus. This can erode tooth enamel, particularly in the upper back molars.

In addition, an excessive amount of saliva could clue your dentist in to acid reflux. This symptom involves the same nerves and reflexes as vomiting, since the body is trying to flush out something that is irritating your esophagus.

Excessive Drinking

Your dentist will be one of the first people to notice you are drinking too much. A number of observations could lead to this conclusion. However, the most common is the decline of previously good oral hygiene habits. Alcohol inhibits the production of saliva. This causes the mouth to dry out. Saliva helps wash oral bacteria away to help prevent many conditions and oral problems.

When a patient who used to have good oral health shows high levels of plaque or gum disease, alcoholism might be the reason. Both of these symptoms evolve at a faster pace than usual in people who increase their alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

A string of oral health problems, such as gum disease, bleeding gums, enamel erosion, or loose teeth, may point to diabetes. “Among people that are unaware of whether they have diabetes or not, poor gum status has been shown to be associated with diabetes,” Panos Papapanou, DDS and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University told the Huffington Post. “This is a pretty critical situation in which a dentist can help to identify undiagnosed diabetes.”

Diabetics are reportedly three times more likely to experience the most severe type of gum disease. Bacterial infections can also worsen other diabetic symptoms. In addition, they may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. You can help prevent these outcomes with regular dental visits. That’s because cleanings help stop bacteria from getting under the gums.

 

Wouldn’t You Rather Not Deal With These Problems At All?

It’s very important to tell your dentist about any oral problems you are having, even those that seem relatively negligible. You may be surprised to learn that the dentist can bestow more advice than just brushing or flossing.

If dentist suspects the presence any of the conditions above, you should take it as a warning that your overall health is at risk. For those who don’t want to develop the conditions in the first place, begin by visiting the dentists every six months. That alone is a major step towards living a longer and healthier life.

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