Teeth Grinding

Everyone has at some point in their life been in a situation where they simply had to, as the saying goes, "grit one's teeth". Whilst these one off teeth clenching moments are almost always fine for your teeth and jaw, when it becomes more persistent it may start to affect your oral health.

Teeth clenching, also known as bruxism, is the involuntary grinding together or forceful clenching of teeth. Some estimates in the dental research community claim that half the population will engage in this involuntary grinding or clenching from time to time. For some individuals, however, the frequency at which this occurs is far more often. It is estimated that about 1 in 20 cases of teeth grinding fall into this category.

Bruxism in most cases will occur at night when you are asleep, therefore, in most cases you may not be aware of your teeth grinding habits at first. Usually the first person to raise the issue with you will be your partner, when they hear this occurring during the night, or a parent of a child when they check on them during the night. Sometimes, however, this teeth grinding can even occur while you are awake, although you may not actually be aware you are doing it. Remember, it is an involuntary action, although you might 'catch yourself' grinding your teeth after a few moments.

What are the causes of teeth grinding or bruxism?

The causes of teeth grinding will of course vary from person to person, however, some of the more prevalent categories include causes such as high levels of stress and anxiety. This can be temporary, due to higher than normal levels of emotional stress, including anger, or more permanent anxiety associated with mental health issues such as depression.

Other causes include high levels of mental concentration on a task, high levels of physical stress or effort being exerted, eruption of teeth, smoking, the misuse of drugs such as amphetamines, high levels of caffeine, incorrect tooth alignment and sleeping disorders.

What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?

As mentioned above, as most of the teeth grinding occurs during sleep in bruxism suffers, it may not be detectable at first. There are, however, some other symptoms or signs that can indicate teeth grinding is occurring. These include:

  • Jaw pain, which may also include ear pain and headaches from the clenching.
  • Toothaches, possibly not in the same area.
  • A sore or aching face or temples.
  • Soreness in the jaw joint when chewing food.
  • Sensitive teeth to hot and cold foods or beverages.
  • Chipped teeth or possibly even cracked teeth.
  • Loose teeth, from the constant force being applied to them.
  • Bite marks on the tongue or inside of the cheeks.

With each of these symptoms, as the teeth clenching or bruxism occurs generally at night, they may be more severe or acute when first waking up. For example, you may experience more discomfort chewing your breakfast and almost no jaw pain by the afternoon or night.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, whilst it may not mean you are suffering from bruxism, you should still come and see us, as soon as possible, to help diagnosis the cause and start treatment. These issues, if left untreated, can lead to more serious dental health concerns.

What are the effects of teeth grinding or bruxism?

The effects of teeth grinding usually lead to issues effectively the same as the symptoms listed above. With the detection of bruxism effectively only occurring when another issue arises, you will usually already be experiencing the side effects before diagnosis.

Naturally, if you were to ignore the symptoms and the bruxism continues, the symptoms can be made significantly worse. Other complications such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can arise or you can actually wear down your teeth to 'stumps'. This may lead to other dental treatments being required such as root canal treatment, bridges, dental implants, dental crowns or even partial or full dentures.

What treatment options are available for teeth grinding?

When it comes to treatment for teeth grinding, our team can help you to prevent the symptoms or effects from affecting your dental health. The most common treatment to prevent your teeth from grinding is to fit you with a custom made bite splint to wear during your sleep. This bite splint will effectively look like a mouthguard and is designed to be worn down instead of the teeth.

As you may have guessed from the fact that the bite splint is designed to be worn down, it will not 'cure' your teeth grinding. As the teeth grinding usually is attributed to stress and alike, the management and potentially remedy to prevent grinding altogether can include:

  • Stress management therapy, including the practicing of relaxation techniques.
  • Maintaining a regular exercise regime.
  • Undergoing cognitive behaviour therapy to try and prevent the body from clenching and grinding your teeth.
  • Medication to relax the muscles that are causing the issue.
  • Treating a sleeping disorder which may trigger the clenching or grinding as a side effect.
  • Avoiding certain foods and beverages, including alcohol and those high in caffeine.

Naturally, our team can also assist in the repair done to any teeth beforehand, such as any chips or cracks caused. This will usually be done after a bite splint has been provided to prevent the remedial work from being ground down again.

What about children?

Whilst anyone can suffer from bruxism, we should point out that children fall into a slightly different category. This is because it is common for children to grind their teeth, particularly when their baby teeth emerge and then subsequently when the permanent teeth come through. Of course, children can also grind their teeth more often than this, usually for similar reasons to above such as stress or misaligned teeth. The effects, however, are usually more mild and result in less issues. Indeed, if the grinding is on the baby teeth, then unless other issues arise such as headaches or jaw pain it may be that no action is required. Most children will simply outgrow this habit.

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