Lexapro jaw clenching (A nerve-racking side effect)
In this blog post, we are going to talk about lexapro induced jaw clenching, which is one of the side effects reported. Lexapro is considered safe as compared to other antidepressants, but it can cause disturbing side effects in people and in this blog, we are going to learn about one of them in detail.
Does Lexapro cause jaw clenching?
Lexapro is associated with jaw clenching and teeth grinding, up to the point where the patient suffers from severe jaw muscle ache. This side effect is rare and could relate to some underlying health condition.
Jaw clenching, for which another term ‘bruxism’ is also used, is a condition when you clench or tighten your jaw and grind your teeth. Now there are a few explanations why lexapro makes you clench your jaw. Jaw clenching during sleep is also common among lexapro users.
One case study specifically represented a patient who suffered from lexapro induced jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
The patient seemed to respond well to the antidepressant during the first few weeks of treatment, but eventually started showing signs of bruxism, including excessive jaw clenching, up to the point where he would suffer from excruciating jaw pain.
His teeth grinding became a part of his sleep pattern and it got so louder that it even disrupted his wife’s sleep quality.
Few studies suggest that SSRIs can cause jaw clenching as a result of increasing the amount of serotonin in your body, which may result in dopamine depletion over time.
Dopamine is another excitatory neurotransmitter that gives you energy, motivation and reward sensation. It also controls muscle function. This dopamine depletion causes abnormal muscle control and affects your motor activity.
This is why you experience symptoms like jaw clenching, teeth grinding, tremors or Parkinson’s-like symptoms, while you’re on lexapro.
One study related jaw spasm reversible disorder with the use of antidepressants and proved that bruxism can be a side effect of antidepressant therapy.
During an episode of jaw clenching, you may experience:
- Loud teeth grinding or clenching
- Pain in jaw muscles and tightening.
- Difficulty in chewing
- Pain in the entire face and neck
- Inability to fall asleep
- Inability to speak properly in severe cases, where it becomes difficult to open and close your jaw easily.
- Damaged teeth
- Gum bleeding
What could be done to get rid of lexapro induced jaw clenching?
Following are a few ways to get rid of lexapro induced jaw clenching:
The first approach to get rid of uncontrollable jaw clenching is dose reduction.
If there is a possibility of reducing your antidepressant dose, without worsening the symptoms of your depression or any other condition for which you’re taking lexapro, this is the first thing your healthcare provider would do.
Jaw clenching can be seen in people who shift to the higher dose after a few weeks of their treatment. Dose escalation is a normal practice in the treatment of depression, in order to achieve higher therapeutic response.
If dose reduction does not reduce the intensity of your jaw clenching, your doctor may start tapering you off lexapro and shift to another antidepressant.
One research study suggests Buspirone 5 to 10mg, 2 to 3 times a day can be considered an effective treatment for bruxism. This is beneficial for people who can not opt for dose reduction or else their depression might eat them away.
Your healthcare provider might suggest you to use a mouth guard that can reduce the impact of bruxism on your jaw muscles and teeth.
The use of muscle relaxants also help to relax your jaw muscles and can provide relief by reducing excessive jaw muscle contraction. You can also try some jaw relaxing exercises which might help strengthen your muscles and help them relax.
Botox injections are also used but they’re not free from side effects. These injections tend to make muscles weak as they work by paralysing them and that’s how you get a few hours of relief.
This is just a symptomatic treatment and should only be used in case of extreme jaw muscle tension.
Other medications that can cause jaw clenching
There are some other medications that can cause jaw clenching as well. Although, SSRIs are pretty much considered the most common medicines causing this side effect, other medications are also included:
- Other antidepressants, especially Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, milnacipran, levomilnacipran.
- Antipsychotics or medications to manage mania
- Dopamine agents like levodopa, Metoclopramide etc
- Substance abuse
Common medical causes of jaw clenching
There are a few common causes of jaw clenching. These include:
Stress and anxiety
Anxiety is considered a symptom of jaw clenching. It is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider to avoid any further damage to your condition. This is a sign of extreme stress or anxiety.
Psychosis and mania
Jaw clenching is linked with psychotic behaviour as well. In fact, it is the most common symptom in people exhibiting psychosis and manic episodes. This can clearly indicate brain and muscle deterioration.
Jaw clenching is also pretty common in people suffering from Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative diseases. Make sure you do not have underlying, undiagnosed disease.
You must have seen people clenching their jaws when they are trying to control their anger. Now think of someone who’s angry 24/7. Yes, this condition is common with people who have aggressive personalities and a minor inconvenience can easily set off the timer of their ticking bomb.
It’s unusual to believe that people have a family history of jaw clenching, but it’s true. It’s often associated with how they naturally move their jaws.
There are a few precautionary measures you can take to prevent your condition from getting worse. These are:
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine, at least for a while until your jaw clenching goes away.
- Do not eat anything that needs excess chewing like bubble gum or chewable toffees.
- Try jaw exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles. Stretching helps too.
- Use warm or cold press (whichever suits you best and provide pain relief).
- Try to distract and stop yourself from clenching your jaw. I know you don’t want to clench your jaw, it involuntarily happens but you might control it if you try.
Proper use of lexapro
In order to achieve the maximum therapeutic response from a drug, it is extremely important to use it right. Read the following points for the proper use of lexapro:
- Make sure lexapro is the right choice of antidepressant for you. Stick to your doctor’s recommended dose. Do not take more or less than that.
- Ask your doctor before taking lexapro if you’re pregnant, trying to conceive or if you’re a breastfeeding mother.
- If you fail to understand how to use the drug properly or have any other question, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- In case of overdose, immediately reach out to the hospital. Make sure you properly guide them about how much drug you have taken and when.
- If you have missed a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but if a lot of time has passed and your next dose is near, do not take it. It’s better to skip the missed dose and take the next one.
- Report any problems with bleeding or bruising to your doctor. If you see any unexplained blisters or rashes on your body, or experience any problems with urination, or if you feel changes in your vision, immediately report to your healthcare provider.
- Keep the bottle away from children and pets. In case of overdose, immediately take them to the hospital.
In this blog post, we have discussed lexapro induced jaw clenching. Jaw clenching, for which another term ‘bruxism’ is also used, is a condition when you clench or tighten your jaw and grind your teeth.
Few studies suggest that SSRIs can cause jaw clenching as a result of increasing the amount of serotonin in your body, which may result in dopamine depletion over time. Make sure you don’t stop using Lexapro without your doctor’s approval.
If your jaw clenching needs discontinuation of the treatment, your doctor will recommend a suitable taper schedule for safe withdrawal of lexapro. Tremors can last up to 2 to 3 months after stopping lexapro.
If your tremors don’t go away, your doctor will prescribe a suitable medication to help control your involuntary movements.
FAQs: lexapro jaw clenching
How long does jaw clenching last on Lexapro?
Jaw clenching can start within 2 to 4 weeks of your treatment and may not go away on its own. Severe jaw clenching or bruxism can result in discontinuation of treatment.
Is jaw clenching a side effect of Lexapro?
Yes, jaw clenching is a side effect of lexapro but it is not commonly found in people taking this antidepressant.
Why does serotonin cause bruxism?
Increased serotonergic activity can cause stimulation of nerve cells which can result in uncontrollable jaw muscle contraction and its movement.
Will side effects of Lexapro go away?
Lexapro induced side effects usually begin to subside within 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. This time duration can vary from person to person. Some people recover earlier and experience mild side effects, while others may go through unusual side effects and may take much longer to recover.
Which medication may lead to bruxism?
Following medications may lead to bruxism:
- Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline, escitalopram, paroxetine, fluoxetine etc and Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, milnacipran, levomilnacipran.
- Antipsychotics or medications to manage mania
- Dopamine agents like levodopa, Metoclopramide etc
- Substance abuse
What are the worst side effects of Lexapro?
Worst side effects of lexapro include:
- Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc.
- Angle-closure glaucoma causes symptoms like eye pain, vision changes, or swelling or redness in your eyes.
- It could cause low sodium levels which can result in psychological symptoms like confusion, agitation, inability to understand surroundings, memory loss etc.
- It can cause elongation of QT interval, causing increased heartbeat or arrhythmia
- Teeth grinding
- It may also put you at an increased risk for dangerous bleeding, especially when taken with medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), warfarin (an anticoagulant medication), or other anticoagulants.
- Andrew R. Garrett, DO, MPH, MS and Jason S. Hawley, MD (2018) – SSRI-associated bruxism https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5914744/#__ffn_sectitle
- Royce Rajan et al. J Psychiatr Pract. (2017) Reevaluating Antidepressant Selection in Patients With Bruxism and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28492455/
- Royce Rajan, Ye-Ming Sun (2017) – Reevaluating Antidepressant Selection in Patients With Bruxism and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28492455/
- The Journal of the American Dental Association – Study shows link between antidepressants, bruxism https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)63437-1/fulltext
- Overview: Bruxism (Teeth grinding) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095#:~:text=Bruxism%20(BRUK%2Dsiz%2Dum,a%20sleep%2Drelated%20movement%20disorder.
- Dental Health and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-grinding-bruxism