Study finds bruxism a recurring condition among people with PTSD

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According to researchers in Brazil, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder often report constant clenching or grinding of the teeth during the day, a condition known as awake (or diurnal) bruxism. 

In this study by a team at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School—and published in Clinical Oral Investigations—patients diagnosed with PSTD were submitted to a clinical examination to assess their oral health. 

According to the researchers, besides self-reported bruxism, they were also found to have a lower pain threshold after the examination.

“Oral hygiene was not found to be associated with the problem,” first author Ana Cristina de Oliveira Solis said.

“Periodontal examination, which included measurement of bacterial plaque and gingival bleeding [or bleeding on probing], showed that patients with PTSD and controls had a similar level of oral health. However, the PTSD patients presented with more pain after probing.”

According to the researchers, bruxism is no longer considered an isolated symptom but is seen as evidence of a larger problem. 

“Our study showed that PTSD can be manifested orally, in bruxism and a higher level of pain after a clinical dental examination. This requires joint action by psychiatrists, psychologists and dentists in screening and treatment of both health conditions,” Solis said.

Dentists should take the patient’s self-reported pain into account during clinical examinations and consider the possibility that the patient has undiagnosed psychiatric problems.

“If the patient has had a traumatic experience, they may be too embarrassed to talk about it or see a therapist,” Solis added.

“The habit of going to the dentist, on the other hand, is much more common and frequent. For this reason, psychiatric screening instruments should be used in routine patient care, and patients should be advised to seek therapeutic assistance.”

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