What is tooth grinding? Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, involves the involuntary clenching or grinding of your upper and lower teeth against each other. This can happen either during the day or at night while you sleep.
What causes tooth grinding?
Many things can cause tooth grinding. Everyone is different, so the reasoning behind the habit can be a mix of many different factors. These can be:
● Psychological (stress, anxiety)
● Biological (genetics)
● External influences (habits such as smoking, caffeine intake, alcohol and certain drugs).
● An abnormal bite, where the upper and lower teeth are improperly aligned
● An sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea
Therefore, it is important to understand the underlying cause to effectively prevent worsening of the condition.
How do I know if I grind my teeth?
Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether you grind your teeth or not. In fact, many people don’t even know that they do it. However, some things that may indicate bruxism include:
● Waking up with a sore jaw or headache
● Tenderness around the jaw joint (located on either side of your head in front of your ears)
● A loved one telling you that they can hear you grind your teeth at night
What can happen if I continue to grind my teeth?
If nothing is done to prevent someone from grinding their teeth, many issues can arise in the future. These can include:
● Teeth wearing down and becoming flatter and shorter in appearance. This is due to the constant forces applied to them as a result of grinding
● Teeth becoming more sensitive and tender. This is due to the protective outer enamel layer of the tooth being worn down
● Teeth, fillings and crowns can crack, chip or break
● Jaw joint issues. This can include pain, stiffness, locking and clicking of the jaw joint
● Continuous headaches
● Other facial pain. Sometimes the pain can even radiate to cause earaches, neck aches and shoulder pain.
What can I do to fix this?
It can often be quite difficult to stop grinding your teeth altogether. However, there are certain things that can be done to reduce this habit as much as possible and prevent further damage to your teeth.
Seek dental advice
The first thing to do would be to visit your dentist. They will often ask about your symptoms, assess the function of your jaw joint, and look for any signs of tooth wear inside of your mouth. This will give them an idea of the best way to manage your condition.
Manage the underlying cause
In a lot of people, stress and anxiety are what cause them to grind their teeth. Therefore, things such as stress management and relaxation techniques will help. In those who smoke or consume a lot of caffeine, reducing the intake of these things is important.
In order to protect your teeth and dental work from further damage, your dentist can make you a custom dental splint, also called a night guard. This appliance is made of either a rigid or soft acrylic material and fits inside your mouth. It should be worn every night before bed. Given that it separates your upper teeth from your lower ones, it prevents tooth grinding from happening during the night and also relaxes your jaw muscles
Give your jaw a rest
Your dentist can also suggest certain exercises and things to do to alleviate any jaw pain that you might have. This can include warm heat packs, limiting wide mouth opening and avoiding chewing gum. In some cases, medication to help relax your jaw muscles may be required.