Rachael Price of Copperas Cove is under a lot of stress due to college final exams and the additional bustle of the holidays. She has seen the effects of the stress through teeth grinding and losing sleep.

Price said she has been grinding her teeth, also known as Bruxism, since age 3.

“I still grind my teeth today. I just started doing it again because of the stress of my college finals,” Price, 21, said. “Whenever I get under a lot of stress, I will find myself grinding my teeth.”

The Central Texas College sophomore said she woke up the last three days with sore jaws, her teeth hurting, and tired from sleep interruption.

Dr. Daniel Caraveo, a general dentist at Benchmark Family Dental in Copperas Cove, said teeth grinding can have a positive benefit because it files down the teeth when a person’s teeth do not meet properly and the body is trying to compensate.

But there are some unwanted effects of teeth grinding.

“It not only wears down the enamel of the teeth, it can cause headaches, muscle pain and disrupted sleep,” Caraveo said. “It also makes teeth sensitive and can fracture teeth, which leads to crowns, root canals and (tooth) extractions.”

For day-clenchers, Caraveo recommended chewing sugar-free gum. For night clenchers, he recommended a mouth guard.

An over-the-counter mouth guard can be purchased for a minimal cost. While they are more bulky than custom-fitted mouth guards, patients can get an idea if they will be able to sleep with it in their mouth.

Bruxism is the third most frequent abnormal sleep behavior after sleep talking and primary snoring, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Dr. Rajesh Reddy, a family medicine physician with Metroplex Hospital, treats patients with various unhealthy sleep patterns.

“Patients often tell me they have difficulty sleeping — falling asleep, staying asleep, or both,” Reddy said. “There are different reasons for these conditions, but sleep hygiene is often a factor.”

Unhealthy sleep hygiene includes watching television, eating, or doing work in bed, Reddy said.

“(This habit) reprograms your mind so it is expecting activity when you go to bed rather than sleep.”

Medication can be prescribed for patients with a sleep debt, meaning long periods without quality sleep time.

Reddy said each patient must be evaluated to determine if the benefits of the medication are worth the associated risks.

Contact Wendy Sledd at wsledd@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476

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