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Grinding your teeth reveals daily stresses

Getting ground down by stress can have a bad effect on a person's teeth, research has shown.

Scientists found people trying to cope with stressful daily problems were especially prone to night-time teeth grinding.

So-called "sleep bruxism" is common but its cause is largely a mystery. The new evidence suggests it might occur as a result of stress.

Researchers led by Dr Maria Giraki, from Heinrich-Heine-University in Dusseldorf, Germany, studied 69 people, of whom 48 were "bruxers".

She said: "Bruxing can lead to abrasive tooth wear, looseness and sensitivity of teeth, and growth and pain in the muscles responsible for chewing.

"Its causes are still relatively unknown, but stress has been implicated. We aimed to investigate whether different stress-factors, and different coping strategies, were associated with these bruxism symptoms."

Teeth grinding was measured by thin plates placed in the mouths of participants overnight. Questionnaires were used to assess how the volunteers coped with stress.

Bruxing was not associated with age, sex or education level, but was more common in people trying to escape stress in their daily life and at work.

Dr Giraki said: "Our data supports the assumption that people with the most problematic grinding do not seem to be able to deal with stress in an adequate way. They seem to prefer negative coping strategies like 'escape'. This, in general, increases the feeling of stress, instead of looking at the stressor in a positive way."

The research is published in the online journal Head & Face Medicine.