Tooth grinding is a condition that is increasingly being reported by the dental community, and more and more patients are seeking the advice of their dentist concerned about their teeth grinding. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching is also called ‘bruxism’ and is part of a bigger family of conditions known as parafunction. This is a condition in which you may consciously or unconsciously grind or clench your teeth while you’re awake or sleeping.
This can lead to a spectrum of symptoms such as jaw pain, earaches, headaches, stiffness on jaw joints, and disrupted sleeping patterns. Additionally, sometimes with constant severe teeth clenching, significant wear of the teeth can be observed over a period of time.
Grinding in children is also common and can be due to physiological growth and eruption of the teeth. A few signs to know if your child has bruxism is to see if they are making grinding noises while sleeping or if there is pain while chewing or if they feel any general facial soreness such as jaw pain. It is common for children to have their symptoms fade and eventually outgrow their bruxism.
What is the cause of bruxism?
There are two kinds of bruxism: Awake bruxism and Sleep bruxism Awake bruxism consists of being semi-conscious that you are clenching your teeth together in the day. Sometimes this happens when patients are found to be under a lot of pressure due to stress or anxiety in them.
On the other hand, sleep bruxism involves the person completely unconscious as they grind their teeth at night during their sleep. Similarly, this is seen to be caused by stress and anxiety. Other factors that increase the risk of bruxism consist of age and genetics. This condition is common in children, possibly due to eruption of teeth, misaligned teeth or as a response to pain or stress as well. Although, there is no need to worry as it usually goes away as they grow into their adolescence and lose their baby teeth unless it is caused by stress.
Grinding and bruxism is heavily linked to genetics, and you may consult other family members, as frequently someone else in the family will report similar symptoms to yours. It is also observed that lifestyle choices may lead to a higher incidence of bruxism. This includes factors such as smoking, a heavy intake of caffeinated drinks, and drinking alcohol.
What can I do to help prevent my teeth from grinding?
Once it is identified that you grind your teeth through careful examination by your dentist of not only your teeth, but the joint and associated muscles, there are several steps that you can take to reduce the effect of bruxism. The usual approach to bruxism starts with the conservative protocol of explanation and reassurance.
Occasionally some adjustment to your teeth may be necessary to balance the way your teeth meet, and finally a nightguard is usually recommended.
Night guards that can be provided to protect your teeth from being damaged when teeth grinding during your sleep.
These mouth guards help you stop grinding your teeth and prevent any damages from occurring. Generally, it is made of hard, heat-cured plastic materials. Although, there is an alternative of using softer acrylic-based elements to provide more comfort to the patient.
For the best fit, the night guards are custom-made where the dentist will take the impression of your teeth to ensure a secure fit. The mouth guard will then be molded around the model, designed to bring high levels of protection and comfort. The guard is then adjusted chairside by your dentist to ensure maximum effectiveness.
The mouth guards can be worn on the upper set of the teeth or the lower depending on individual cases, although the upper night guards are more common.
You will be able to determine the good quality of the mouthguard with its durability, examining how comfortable it is, if it is easy to clean, and whether or not it is resisting tears.
There are other treatments that can work as an adjunct to night guard wearing including physiotherapy exercises. This would help you sleep better at night by keeping your muscles relaxed. De-stressing exercises can also lead to a calm mind and aid to reduce the teeth grinding.
If you find yourself grinding whilst awake, it is important that you keep a conscious effort to stop. This could be done through meditation and relaxing exercises. Also ensure not to fall into other parafunction habits such as biting nails or pens as this would not only damage your teeth but would also contract your jaw muscles making it more likely for you to be grinding.
Is finding a solution with the dentist necessary?
Grinding is a detrimental habit that over a period of time can cause significant damage to your teeth and jaw joint as well as associated structures such as the muscles. Not having pain symptoms does not indicate health and although individual pain thresholds vary between patients, it is highly recommended to visit a dentist if your teeth have worn out and become sensitive or if you experience any symptoms.
A consultation with a dentist is recommended to examine your teeth, muscles and joint, and establish and damages to the teeth such as the wearing of your tooth enamel.
In this case, it is best to get professional help to prevent the damage from progressing, hence protecting your teeth and putting an end to the pain. Our dental experts at Micris Dental Clinic can provide a comprehensive examination as well as making recommendations, giving you the best guidance towards improved oral health.