While your dentist and doctor would call it bruxism, most people are more familiar with the term “teeth grinding.”
Almost everyone grinds their teeth at some point in their lives, whether it’s out of anxiety or in our sleep.
In most cases, infrequent grinding is usually not a cause for concern. However, it can become an issue if it happens on a frequent basis.
Why do we grind our teeth?
Grinding one’s teeth during the day is usually not a huge worry because the grinder often notices quickly that they’re doing it and can remind themselves to stop. It is also common in children, although most usually grow out of it by their teenage years.
That said, bruxism frequently takes place during sleep, meaning you might have no idea you’re doing it and thus can’t easily end the behaviour. Sleep bruxism can be caused by a variety of factors, such as anxiety and stress, but also as a result of sleep apnoea or as a side effect of antipsychotic drugs/medicines and antidepressants.
Grinding one’s teeth can also be influenced by lifestyle choices – drinking alcohol and smoking, as well as taking certain street drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, increases your chances of developing bruxism. Finally, having an abnormal bite (due to missing or crooked teeth) can also lead to teeth grinding.
When does bruxism become a problem?
There are a number of symptoms and signs to look for that may indicate teeth grinding is becoming a problem. Because bruxism can happen during your sleep, it’s important to keep an eye out for the symptoms and see a dentist regularly for check-ups. Symptoms of bruxism include pain in the jaw, head or ears. You may notice increased tooth sensitivity, damage on the insides of your cheeks from biting or even loose teeth in some cases. Finally, your partner might be the one to point out your bruxism if they can hear it while you sleep at night.
Any pain or tooth damage in relation to grinding should be addressed by a visit to the dentist. Left untreated, chronic bruxism can cause irreparable damage to your teeth that might lead to the necessity of implants, crowns, root canals or dentures.
Grinding your teeth can also worsen jaw disorders such as TMJD, potentially leading to problems with opening your jaw and chewing.
How is bruxism treated?
Your dentist might offer you a few treatments to help with bruxism. If the cause is an uneven bite, your dentist can reshape your teeth and provide other treatments to make it more even. Otherwise, they might provide you with a mouthguard or splint to wear at night, which will reduce the amount of contact your teeth have with each other, preventing damage.
Finally, steps can be taken to eliminate the causes of bruxism by seeking behavioural therapy for underlying anxiety and/or anger issues. You can also make other lifestyle choices such as cutting down on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
For more information about bruxism and how it can be treated, contact Palmerston Dental Clinic for an appointment.