Teeth grinding or Bruxism is a condition where patients grind or clench their teeth, wearing down tooth enamel and causing dental problems. This often happens when sleeping, but is also an unconscious habit when awake. Many people don’t know they grind their teeth until their dentist diagnoses them with significant teeth wearing.
Why does it happen?
The cause can be anxiety or stress or built-up tension which can cause teeth to clench up, or even deep concentration.
Physical reasons include an abnormal or uneven bite, bad tooth alignment, missing or crooked teeth. Uneven dental fillings can contribute, as can Sleep Apnoea where grinding is a natural reflex to unblock the airway.
Why is it harmful?
Bruxism can cause headaches, earaches, jaw pain and toothache. Facial structure and profiles can also change as grinding impacts the jaw and surrounding muscles. Severe grinding can lead to jaw dysfunction, such as temporomandibular disorders (TMD), which causes pain and compromised movement of the jaws and surrounding muscles.
Chronic teeth grinding results in excessive wear, chipping, fractures, loosening or loss of teeth. Grinding can also loosen and damage existing fillings, decreasing the longevity of the filling. Continuous grinding can weaken the surface of the teeth and increase sensitivity to hot and cold.
How do I find out if I grind my teeth?
As it usually occurs during sleep, most people are unaware unless their partner alerts them to the continuous noise at night. You may notice,
A dull headache
Sore jaw muscles and joints
Trouble opening the mouth wide
Facial pain including aching or stiffness
Severe damage can result in,
Broken dental fillings
Cracks in the teeth
Your dentist will check the wear and damage of your teeth and the surrounding muscles to determine if teeth grinding is the cause of your problems.
My Emergency Dentist - Options
A mouth splint is the most effective treatment, worn at night to creates a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, protecting them from further damage. Your dentist will arrange a fitting for you.
It’s best to use a custom fitted mouth guard as directed by your dentist, as they are made specifically for protection against grinding.
Custom made to fit precisely on your upper and/or lower teeth, they are more costly than a generic mouth guard, but can last several years as they are made with a harder plastic material. If existing teeth problems are the cause of your teeth grinding, see your dentist immediately for treatment.
If anxiety is the underlying cause of teeth grinding, see your doctor or psychologist for treatment. Relaxing, having a good night’s sleep and try to reduce stress by,
Yoga and meditation
Deep breathing exercises
Reduce the consumption of caffeine such as coffee, soft drinks and chocolate
Avoid alcohol and smoking
Relaxing the jaw muscles during the day
Yes, they can and do! Especially when baby teeth are falling out and adult teeth are growing. Although not harmful, as children usually stop grinding when two sets of teeth have grown in. If children complain of jaw pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, have worn or damaged teeth or continue to grind after their adult teeth have grown, you must take steps now to protect their teeth long term.