Bruxism or teeth grinding is a condition where an individual gnash, clench and grind their teeth. People with bruxism may clench or grind their teeth during sleep (sleep bruxism) or may unconsciously do so while awake (awake bruxism).
Individuals who clench or grind their teeth during sleep are likely to have other sleep disorders like sleep apnea (pauses in breathing) and snoring. The condition is also considered a sleep-related movement disorder.
Mild cases of bruxism may not require any treatment. However, severe cases of bruxism may lead to headaches, damaged teeth, jaw disorders, and other complications.
What are the possible causes of teeth grinding?
While awake bruxism is often attributed to anxiety and stress, sleep bruxism is believed to be secondary to crooked or missing teeth or an abnormal bite. As mentioned earlier, it can also be caused by sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Why is teeth grinding harmful?
In most cases, chronic teeth grinding can result to loosening, fracturing, and eventual loss of teeth. In some cases, the teeth are worn down to stumps. In similar cases, crowns, bridges, root canals, partial dentures, implants and even complete denture might be necessary.
Apart from possible teeth damage and tooth loss, severe teeth grinding may also cause or worsen TMD (temporomandibular joint disorders), damage the jaws, and even alter the appearance of the face.
What are some of the symptoms of bruxism?
When teeth grinding occurs during sleep, many are not aware they do it. However, a sore jaw and constant and dull headache are often telltale signs. Most people who grind their teeth during sleep often find out about the condition from their bed partners.
For those who suspect that they might have the condition, visiting a dentist is recommended. Dentists will examine the jaw and mouth to look for signs of the condition and can recommend the best treatment options for the condition.
What can be done to stop teeth grinding?
The most prevalent means of managing bruxism is through the use of a custom-fitted mouth guard during sleep. Individuals with severe bruxism may be required to wear a mouth guard for several months.
Patients with suspected airway or sleep issues may be referred to an ENT specialist or sleep physician for further assessment. Your dentist may also refer you to a doctor who specialises in sleep disorders for further help.
If the grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, your dentist or doctor will be able to provide guidance to help minimise the stress and anxiety. Starting an exercise program, attending stress counselling, and seeing a physical therapist are some of the options that might be recommended.
The following tips can also help manage the condition:
- Cut back on foods and beverages that contain caffeine like coffee, chocolate, and colas.
- Refrain from chewing on anything that is not food (pens, pencils, etc.). Also, avoid chewing gum as it makes the jaw muscles more used to clenching and may eventually lead to teeth grinding.
- When you notice that you are grinding or clenching your teeth, position the tip of the tongue between the teeth. This will train the jaw muscles to relax.