Dr. Ben Wilcox, the practice principal at Shore Dental in Neutral Bay, has found more and more female patients are experiencing moderate to severe teeth grinding, particularly when sleeping. In addition to tooth damage, teeth grinding can cause tension headaches, facial pain and jaw damage. But there is something you can do about it and it won’t cost you a dime.
Teeth grinding, or “bruxism”, is a condition in which you unconsciously grind, gnash or clench your teeth. Some people grind them at night, which is called “sleep bruxism”. Most of the time, bruxism does not require treatment. However, it can be a frequently occurring condition (especially if you suffer from sleep bruxism) and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other issues.
Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?
Dentists and doctors are not entirely sure what causes bruxism. However, commonly agreed-on causes include:
- Anxiety, stress or tension
- Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
- Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
- Other sleep problems
- Response to pain from an earache or teething (in children)
- Complication resulting from a disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- An uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications, including certain antidepressants
How Do I Find Out if I Grind My Teeth?
Some of the signs and symptoms of bruxism include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Teeth that are worn down, flattened, fractured or chipped
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain or tightness in your jaw muscles
- Frequent earache — because of severe jaw muscle contractions, not a problem with your ear
- Chronic facial pain
- Lacerations from chewing on the inside of your cheek
- Indentations on your tongue
Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?
In most cases, bruxism doesn’t cause serious complications, as it is a condition that most people will grow out of. However, for extended sufferers of bruxism, the condition may lead to:
- Tooth damage, including to restorations or crowns
- Tension-type headaches
- Facial pain
- Jaw damage
- Temporomandibular disorders, which are felt when opening and closing your mouth
How do I Stop Grinding My Teeth in Sleep?
In many cases of bruxism and sleep bruxism, no treatment is necessary as most children will outgrow bruxism in their adolescence, and most adults will not grind or clench their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However, if you do feel as though you are suffering from the harmful effects from bruxism, try one or more of the following methods to help stop the symptoms:
- Try to reduce your daily stress levels by practising relaxation techniques.
- Go to bed earlier and sleep more.
- Make facial relaxation a habit by relaxing your face and jaw muscles throughout the day.
- Cut down on unhealthy vices like smoking or drinking coffee or alcohol, which contribute to bruxism.
- Start training yourself not to clench or grind your teeth during the day. If you catch yourself clenching or grinding, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth – this will train your jaw muscles to relax.
If you find that after employing any of the above practices, your dentist may suggest getting a mouth guard or splint to prevent damage to your teeth. If the bruxism is a result of misaligned teeth, your dentist may need to use overlays or crowns to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
If you have concerns about your bruxism or the effects of bruxism on someone you know, don’t hesitate to call Shore Dental in Neutral Bay, Sydney on (02) 9953 1124 to organise an appointment.
You may also want to check out Shore Dental’s blog at http://www.shoredental.com.au/blog/