Stress and Oral Health – An Interview with Dr. Karagiorgos

It’s summertime and the living is easy…except the reality is that many of our patients are dealing with increased stress and anxiety levels from the past year.  This has had an impact on oral health as well, with patients reporting jaw clenching, teeth grinding, as well as cracked teeth.  Fortunately, there are ways FDA can help.  We talked with Dr. Karagiorgos about the impact of stress on the mouth and what treatment options are available for patients.  

Have you noticed any changes in your patient’s oral health during Covid?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  Most definitely. While maybe a few people started flossing and brushing more regularly as they saw themselves more on ZOOM conferences for work or family gatherings, the pandemic has had a negative impact on oral health for most patients.  Tooth decay, plaque and gum disease did not stop during the pandemic. Small cavities turned into bigger cavities, big cavities turned into root canals. Some teeth that needed root canals turned into tooth extractions. 

Also, people have been under a lot of stress. Stress and anxiety are bad for people’s health in general, and teeth and jaws are no exception. As a result of this increase in stress and anxiety, we are seeing a lot more clenching and grinding in patients. Some people are aware of it — they catch themselves clenching or grinding their teeth during the day — but many are clenching while they are sleeping and are not even aware they are doing it.  I often ask patients if they sleep next to someone because that person might know more about their grinding or clenching habits than they themselves do. 

Other questions I ask that may reveal a night grinding or clenching habit include: 

  • Do you wake up with sore teeth? 
  • Do you wake up with a sore jaw?
  • Do you suffer from headaches?
  • Do you suffer from neck muscle spasms? 
What are your recommendations for patients who clench or grind their teeth?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  The most important thing to reduce the ill effects of clenching and grinding is to recognize that it is happening.  We can work with patients to develop a treatment plan, as well as help find resources and support for relaxation.  For example, a warm compress on the jaw is helpful and there are exercises patients can do before bedtime to help relax their jaw.

However, since nighttime clenching and grinding is happening subconsciously, patients might continue the behavior despite their best attempts to curb it. I am a big believer in the benefits of a custom night guard; it’s an insurance policy to protect natural teeth, crowns and fillings, and especially dental implants.  Like the old adage says…  an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is definitely true in teeth!  I would much rather replace worn out mouth guards than have to repair damaged teeth!

What does getting a night guard entail?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  It’s a simple procedure:  We take a mold of a patient’s teeth and create a mouth guard specifically suited to the structure of their mouth and teeth to be worn while sleeping.  We design these night guards to direct and dissipate the forces created when clenching and grinding, something that the over-the-counter versions cannot.  Custom night guards also provide a much better fit than options you can find at a store, which means it will be more comfortable and less likely to dislodge while sleeping.  

That said, over-the-counter versions are a great tool to help a patient learn to sleep with a night guard.  We want to know that it is something a patient can and will use before going through the process and dealing with the cost of creating a custom night guard.  Night guards don’t work if they are sitting in a drawer collecting dust!

If a patient has a cracked tooth from grinding or clenching, what options do they have?

Dr. Karagiorgos:  Dental bonding is the most common procedure to help smooth out or repair damaged teeth.  We use a special tooth-like material that adheres quickly to teeth and can be polished and shaped to match your other teeth.  

One thing to note is that a cracked tooth could be obvious or not so obvious. A piece of tooth might chip off and leave the tooth sharp to our tongue, or a cracked tooth might be completely intact but cause sensitivity to hot or cold, to biting on it, or to releasing pressure after biting.  Small chips and cracks in your teeth could become larger over time, so if you have any concerns or are experiencing any of these systems, please give us a call.  Dr. Brunacini and I are happy to talk to you about your concerns.  We are here to help!


Thank you Dr. Karagiorgos!

If you are experiencing stress-related symptoms like a sore jaw or teeth, or have noticed a cracked tooth, please give us a call at 207.781.5900 so we can help!  Our team of compassionate professionals will work with you to find a treatment plan that supports your oral health needs. Let us help you get back to that easy summertime living!


Jaws: Grinding, Clenching, Popping

When was the last time you checked in with your jaw?  In these stressful times, perhaps you’ve noticed that you clench or grind your teeth more frequently, or that your jaw has begun to pop as you chew or talk.   While occasional grinding or clenching may not be harmful, regular grinding can cause damage to your teeth and impact your jaws and joints.  Sounds scary!  However, you’re not alone!  Some 30 to 40% of Americans have jaw pain or grind their teeth. Talking to Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos is a great first step to addressing the aches in your jaw and face.  Here are some symptoms to look out for and some tips to keep your jaw from causing you pain.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, often happens at night while you sleep.  Even if you’re not aware of grinding and clenching your teeth, you’re probably experiencing some symptoms in the daylight hours.  Here are a few common symptoms:

  • Dull headache
  • Sore jaw, neck, or face muscles
  • Popping or cracking when moving jaw
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Chipped or flattened teeth

There are steps you can take to stop grinding your teeth and Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos should be part of your plan.  If you feel like you have been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, come in for a comprehensive dental exam so we can help develop a special treatment plan for you. For example, we can prescribe and fabricate a night guard to help protect your teeth.  We can also help you address your stress, as well as find resources and support for relaxing your mind and your jaw muscles.  Some tips to consider include:

  • Exercise for whole body health and stress reduction
  • Counseling to help with stress and anxiety
  • Warm compresses to help ease jaw tension
  • Jaw exercises to help relax the muscles before bedtime

So, remember to brush your teeth, floss, and relax your jaw!  If you need help addressing your jaw pain or teeth grinding, give us a call at 207.781.5900.  We are here to help you have dental care that treats you and helps you have a healthy mouth and a healthy life!

Avoid the Grind of the Season: Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

The holiday season is upon us and along with it is holiday stress.  Stress is one of the main causes of bruxism or teeth grinding, which often happens while you sleep.  While occasional grinding or clenching may not be harmful, regular grinding can damage not only your teeth, but also affect your jaw muscles and joints. We examine the common symptoms of teeth grinding as well as look at ways to stop teeth grinding.

Beyond stress and anxiety, teeth grinding can also be caused by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, and alcohol or tobacco use.  In fact, a study from the November 2016 edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association found that smokers and people who abuse alcohol and drugs were almost twice as likely to grind their teeth.  Since teeth grinding often happens while you sleep, it is helpful to know the symptoms so complications don’t arise.

Common Symptoms of Bruxism

  • Dull headache
  • Sore jaw, neck, and face muscles
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Chipped or flattened teeth

In some cases, prolonged teeth grinding can lead to tooth loss or fractured teeth.  Cracked teeth can impact your appearance and even change your bite which could alter your facial profile.  

There are steps you can take to stop grinding your teeth, and your dentist should be part of your plan.  A dentist can prescribe and fabricate a night-guard to help protect your teeth. If you feel you have been experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, come in for a comprehensive dental exam so we can help develop a treatment plan that is specialized for you.

If stress is the cause, then finding a way to relax your mind and your jaw muscles is important.  Relaxation techniques and meditation are powerful ways to not just unclench your jaw, but also to improve your overall health.  Counseling and exercise are also effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve your well-being.

This holiday season, remember to take a deep breath and allow yourself some time to relax.  If you need help addressing and treating your bruxism, give us a call at 207.781.5900. We are your dental care partner and we want you to have a healthy mouth and a healthy life!


*Image courtesy of

The Lowdown on Teeth Grinding

Have you ever wondered if you grind your teeth at night? If you did, how would you know? Has one of your loved ones told you that they’ve heard you grinding your teeth?

If so, you’re not alone: teeth grinding, aka bruxism, is a fairly common phenomenon across the US. Depending on the individual, it can be related to more or less serious health concerns, but no matter which category you fall into it’s disconcerting to realize that this is all happening to you while you’re at rest and without your knowledge. Don’t worry though, there are things you can do! We want to go over the causes behind bruxism with you today, as well as ways you can help prevent it in your life.

What’s behind bruxism?

Up to now, the theory has been that tooth grinding is closely associated with stress or anxiety. This may be the case for some, but what about others? For example, babies have been observed grinding their teeth –or gums– in utero, which raised questions in the scientific community. Since this discovery, another possible cause behind bruxism emerged: is it possible that grinding is a survival response?

Recent research suggests that it is. The grinding that researchers observed during their experiments appeared to be the body’s natural survival response to bypass symptoms of sleep apnea.

Though many may not know it, our bodies require all of our muscles to be relaxed for the brain to achieve deep sleep. When relaxed, the tongue takes up almost double the amount of space, which can obstruct the airway and respiration. This results in more trouble for some people than others.

Researchers observed sleeping individuals with blocked airways suddenly start grinding their teeth, which – interestingly enough – reopened their airways and allowed them to breathe normally again. Among other potential tested solutions was a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which served to restore full airway functionality and allowed sleeping participants to stop grinding their teeth and breathe properly.

So is grinding good or bad?

In the sense that bruxism is a response that saves your life if you stop breathing, bruxism is good. But in the sense of dental longevity, it’s bad. Bruxism can lead to damage of your teeth and jaw, and can bring about tooth sensitivity and chronic jaw pain. Headaches and periodontal tissue damage can also be related to bruxism.

Aside from oral health, tooth grinding disrupts normal sleep patterns. Did you know that all the great benefits of a full night’s rest only exist for you if you’ve made it to the deep sleep stage? So if you’re grinding your teeth regularly at night, you may not receive sleep-related benefits like improved memory, fat burn, muscle build, and tighter skin.

Teeth grinding can also serve as a red flag for sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

What can I do if I grind my teeth while sleeping?

Talk to us if you suspect you’re grinding your teeth at night. Some of the symptoms to look for include: wear on your teeth, flattened tooth surfaces, abfraction (which is a loss of tooth structure along the gum line that is not related to tooth decay), sore jaw muscles or TMJ pain, or a jaw that clicks.

While we don’t make a diagnosis about your quality of sleep, we can help you figure out if you are grinding your teeth by examining your mouth for these signs. Your medical doctor might then encourage you to get a sleep study to figure out whether your bruxism is related to sleep apnea or not.

If you suspect your grinding is stress-related, there are a number of things you can do to decrease your chances of tooth grinding at night. Starting an exercise regimen or attending stress counseling might help, but here are a few easily implemented tips to help you reduce your chance of bruxism:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Try not to chew on objects that aren’t food – chewing gum included. Chewing on items like pens, pencils, and chewing gum stimulates tension in your jaw.
  • Try to recognize when you are tensing or clenching your jaw throughout the day. When you notice, place the tip of your tongue between your teeth; this encourages your jaw muscles to relax.
  • Grab a warm washcloth and hold it to your cheek (in front of your earlobe) as you fall asleep. The warmth helps relax your jaw muscles.

Think you’re grinding at night? Need more tips? Ask us your questions about bruxism at your next appointment!