New research shows that the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) family of medications which includes antidepressants Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft may trigger teeth-grinding and related headaches. This information is of particular interest to those with CFIDS and FM, many of whom experience depression as a symptom of their illness.
“I think it’s important for doctors and people taking these drugs to be aware of this potential problem,” commented Dr. John Michael Bostwick. He went on to note that SSRIs are among the most popular prescription drugs in the US. “We don’t know how common this problem is,” Botswick stated, “but we suspect that if physicians begin to ask about it, they will find it to be quite common.”
The SSRI family of medications all affect chemicals in the brain collectively referred to as neurotransmitters, which influence emotions and psychological disturbances. They work by allowing an accumulation of serotonin to be maintained in the space between the neurons, thus creating a reserve to decrease symptoms of depression. Individuals with FMS tend to have lower levels of serotonin, which is essential to sleep, mood, and pain regulation. SSRIs have the ability to suppress activity of dopamine, which plays a role in the control of muscular or motor activity. Various movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease are attributed to reduced dopamine activity. Researches speculate that the effect SSRIs have on dopamine may account for the teeth grinding and associated headaches patients have experienced.
The study, co-authored by Drs. Botswick and Jaffe of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that including the antidepressant drug Buspar (buspirone) in the patient’s medication regimen appears to provide relief from these symptoms.
The testimonies of some unhappy patients support the findings. One 61-year-old woman complained of severe nighttime teeth grinding after she started taking Zoloft (sertraline). “I’m doing so much damage to my teeth from clenching during sleep,” she reported. Damage that resulted in two cracked crowns.
In addition, a 35-year-old man reported persistent jaw-clenching and intense headaches associated with Zoloft use.
In both of the documented cases, the patients experienced relief after they included another (non-SSRI) antidepressant, Buspar, in their medication plan.
This information is invaluable for those who improve from taking SSRIs but suffer from these unpleasant side effects. Botswick noted SSRI users who are experiencing these side effects “don’t necessarily have to live with this pain. We may be able to help them with another drug, while still allowing them to keep the benefit of their antidepressant.”
Common adverse side effects of SSRIs include loss of sexual appetite, dry mouth, constipation and diarrhea. These unpleasant effects have lead some to investigate alternative therapies. St. John’s Wort, an herb with proven anti-depressant properties, has quickly become the fourth highest selling herb in the US and is outselling Prozac in Germany. SAM-e is another safe option that has helped countless people recover from depression, side-effect free.
Sources: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Griffith, M.D., Winter H. “Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs.” The Berkeley Publishing Group
Strohecker, James & Nancy. “Natural Healing for Depression.” The Berkeley Publishing Group
Editor. “Health News.” The New England Journal of Medicine