Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. But lately, as we navigate the post-COVID world, anxiety and depression are at an all time high. For better or for worse, many Americans are seeking help from prescription medications to improve their mental health. In fact, anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication prescriptions increased by approximately 34% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is well understood that many prescription medications have side effects. For anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications, these side effects include dry mouth and nocturnal bruxism (nighttime grinding of the teeth). More specifically, two types of medications have been strongly linked to clenching and grinding: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). A few examples of these drugs are Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, and Zoloft, and they work by altering active levels of dopamine in the brain. Since dopamine also plays a role in muscle activity, scientists believe that disturbing its natural levels can inadvertently cause unwanted muscle movement, leading to bruxism.
Though many people are unaware of their clenching and grinding, we dental professionals frequently see the signs of it. Many patients exhibit overly aggressive tooth wear, gum recession, and “notches” that form near the gum line due to flexure of the teeth. In addition, we see a lot of fractures in teeth that are heavily restored with silver fillings which then requires restoration with a crown.
So, what can you do if you or your dentist suspects that you are clenching or grinding your teeth? First of all, do not stop taking your medication. Any change in medication type or dosage should be discussed with your doctor. If your medication is working well for you, then the simple fabrication of a custom-fit night guard could be the solution. It takes just two quick and easy visits to create a night guard, and consistent use of one can go a long way towards protecting your teeth against irreversible damage!