Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed medications for moderate to severe depression. Many people who take SSRIs report unwanted side effects that Include bruxism. In other words, you may find yourself grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw after taking this type of medication. If you experience SSRI antidepressant bruxism, discover why it happens and explore potential solutions for this challenging dental issue.
- Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um): a condition where you grind, gnash or clench your teeth
Symptoms Associated With Bruxism
Signs of SSRI-associated bruxism can include:
- Clenching or grinding teeth during the day or while sleeping
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- Damaged, loose, chipped or fractured teeth
- Dry mouth
- Tooth sensitivity or pain
- Exposed tooth areas with worn enamel
- Pain in the ear, face or neck
Without treatment, bruxism sometimes leads to sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly pauses during sleep. It can also increase the risk of other sleep disorders like insomnia. Many people don’t realize they have bruxism until complications develop, especially if the symptoms only occur during sleep. Others find out from their sleep partners because the grinding makes unwanted noise at night.
Why SSRIs Cause This Odd Side Effect
According to research published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice, bruxism associated with SSRI use more commonly occurs in females and may affect both children and adults prescribed these antidepressants. Venlafaxine (Effexor), sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac) were the drugs that most commonly caused this side effect in the study data. Researchers report that about 24.3% of adults who take SSRIs develop bruxism, compared to 15.3% of adults in the general population.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry theorized that SSRI-related bruxism arises from the drugs’ effects on dopamine. SSRIs deplete the level of this brain chemical, which has an impact on mood. At the same time, dopamine also impacts motor and muscular function — so this suppression could cause jaw-clenching behavior. Some movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, for instance, are likely caused by limited dopamine.
Coping With Side Effects of SSRIs
Some side effects of SSRIs resolve after your body adjusts to the drug. In the Neurology Clinical Practice research discussed above, symptoms like dry mouth and grinding teeth began within a month after participants started taking the drug and resolved within a month after they stopped treatment.
When side effects persist, it’s important to balance the discomfort with the ability of the medication to control your depression symptoms. If you struggle with side effects, your healthcare provider may recommend a different antidepressant. Some people find bruxism resolves if their doctor adds buspirone (an anxiety medication) to their treatment regimen. It’s important to keep an open line of communication with your doctor so you can find a solution for both your mental health concerns and SSRI side effects.
Although SSRIs work in similar ways, different drugs have different effects on the body. In addition to bruxism, side effects resulting from SSRI use may include appetite changes, dizziness, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, dry mouth, fatigue, headache and upset stomach. However, if you find that you can’t tolerate the side effects of one type of antidepressant, your healthcare provider can likely find a different drug that works better for you.
Even if you experience side effects, you shouldn’t stop taking your antidepressant without telling your doctor. Some of these drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly discontinue use. If you don’t gradually decrease the amount of the SSRI you take, you could experience fatigue, dizziness, nausea, nervousness and flu-like symptoms.
Treatment Options for Bruxism
Treatment can often alleviate the effects of bruxism, particularly if you experience dental complications. Your dentist can prescribe a mouth guard or splint to prevent the grinding and clenching motion. They fit over the teeth and may be worn during the day and at night. You may need fillings or crowns to repair damage if teeth become worn, cracked or broken.
Sometimes, the alignment of your teeth and jaw can lead to bruxism or worsen SSRI-related bruxism. In this case, your dentist can evaluate your bite to determine whether orthodontic treatment could resolve teeth grinding or related complications. People with missing teeth may find that getting implants or crowns addresses bruxism concerns.
Some people find that managing stress and anxiety reduces or resolves teeth grinding. You may want to try relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and talk therapy. You can also consider biofeedback, a type of physical therapy that helps you control the muscle activity involved in clenching and grinding your teeth. Doctors sometimes prescribe Botox injections or muscle relaxants to treat severe cases of bruxism. Facial massages can relieve the pain of tight muscles in the neck and jaw area.
Lifestyle changes can potentially reduce the impact of tooth grinding on your health. You can reduce dietary caffeine by limiting items like coffee, chocolate and soda. Alcohol can also contribute to excessive jaw clenching. Avoid chewing on non-food items, which can also make teeth grinding worse over time. Try keeping the tip of your tongue between your teeth to discourage the grinding motion.
The Benefits of Residential Mental Health Treatment
It can be difficult to determine whether a particular SSRI makes sense for your mental health treatment, especially when a drug comes with unwanted side effects that disrupt your life and health. You need to consider a range of factors that include your personal physical and mental health history, family history, lifestyle, behavior, symptoms you experience, possible interactions with other medications you take, other health conditions you have, and whether you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.
Spending time in a residential mental health care program can help you land on the right management plan for your diagnosis, whether or not that includes medication. Reach out to Restore today and connect with one of our professional counselors to learn more about your options for a healthier life. We provide a range of services that include treatment for depression and other mental health concerns, as well as dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use disorder.