UPDATED: 9:24 a.m. EDT June 3, 2002
Millions of Americans take the antidepressants Zoloft, Prozac
and Paxil -- also known as SSRIs.
the SSRIs have some well-known side effects, many clinicians aren't
aware of one that's causing problems for a lot of people.
After her daughter was born two years ago, Judy Soto-Pastor
suffered from postpartum depression symptoms. A doctor at a woman's
clinic prescribed Zoloft.
"They said it was good for hormones
and regulating your period," Soto-Pastor said.
What they didn't say was that it can also cause some people
to grind and clench their teeth. Soto-Pastor had been grinding hers
for years, but the doctor hadn't asked about it. After she started
taking Zoloft, she'd wake up with a painful jaw.
"It felt that my jaw was stiff and if I felt it I could feel
that the muscles were very sore, sore to the touch," Soto-Pastor
Dr. Robert Rosenbaum specializes in head and neck pain. Many
patients come to him after taking Zoloft or Prozac.
"The clenching, grinding, jaw problems, tooth problems have
significantly increased and gotten more painful," Rosenbaum said.
SSRIs are considered an effective new class of
antidepressants. The problem is that primary care doctors who aren't
as familiar with all their side effects often prescribe them.
Rosenbaum said that they should be asking patients key
"One of the questions one should ask is: Are your jaw muscles
feeling worse after having started the antidepressants?" Rosenbaum
That question might have saved Soto-Pastor some dental work.
"Sure enough, I fractured a couple of molars," Soto-Pastor
One solution is to wear a night guard to reduce the pain, or
lower the dosage or try a different medication. But above all,
Rosenbaum said, patients need to be aware.
"My best advice is for patients to be aware of their own
bodies and to communicate these side effects to their physicians,"
For many people, the drug Buspar taken along with an SSRI
counteracts the clenching and grinding effects.
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