Do you consciously or unconsciously grind and clench your teeth? Well! Do not worry. Teeth grinding, medically is called Bruxism.
This does not usually harm your teeth but regularly grinding and clenching your teeth can cause excessive damage and other oral complications. However, the common side effect of chronic grinding may wear teeth down to stumps.
When these events happen, your dentist upon a systematic review of your oral and dental health conditions will refer you to bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed
Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?
Most often, the causes of teeth grinding is stress and anxiety. It mostly occurs during sleep and the causes are more likely to be an abnormal bite or crooked teeth.
Sleep disorder also termed sleep apnea, is also caused due to Teeth Grinding.
How can you Identify Yourself?
Most people are unaware of their teeth grinding habit as it often occurs during sleep. However, it causes dull and constant headaches or sore jaw when you wake up.
Most of the time, it is a family member who identifies that you grind your teeth at night.
Talk to your dentist right away to get the right treatment.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
There are a number of symptoms and signs of Bruxism. Some of these are:
It causes chipping, fracture, loose or flat teeth. Your teeth will be worn down, exposing deep layers of your tooth.
It increases toothache and sensitivity. You might feel tight or tired jaw muscles or jaw locks that will not open or close completely.
There may be soreness, or pain in the jaw, neck, or face. You will feel dull headaches, damage from chewing on the side of your cheek, and sleep disruption.
Our teeth have a protective layer on the top of them known as Enamel. It is white in color and protects it from bacteria, plaque, and other dental disorders.
When enamel wears of it exposes the inner layer i.e. Dentin the next layer which is of yellow color. It is softer than enamel and wears off faster. Furthermore, it can increase chances of Tooth Cavities and Plaque
Clenching and grinding your teeth not only wears them down at the level of the chewing surface where teeth meet the gums.
It will cause cracks or breakdown of tooth structure at the gum levels.
The causes are not always clear but are interlinked to other factors such as stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders.
Causes of teeth grinding are as follows:
Medicines: If you are taking certain medications it can cause teeth grinding. Particularly it is often the cause of medications that are antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
Stress and Anxiety: The most common cause of teeth grinding is stress and anxiety. Most of the time, you might not be aware of this habit until someone identifies it for you.
Sleep Disorders: if you suffer from sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea or you snore, you are more likely to grind your teeth.
OSA interrupts your breath while you are sleeping.
However, you are most likely to grind your teeth if you:
- Talk or mumble while asleep
- Behave violently while asleep
- Suffer from sleep paralysis, i.e. a temporary inability to more or speak while waking up or falling asleep
- Suffer from hallucinations, where you see or hear things that are not real
Lifestyle: Some other factors that can make teeth grinding more likely or more it worse are related to your daily lifestyle. These are smoking, using recreational drugs, or drinking caffeine such as tea or coffee (6 or more cups a day)
Teeth Grinding in Children
The problem of Bruxism is not only limited to adults but also affects children. Approximately 15 to 33% of children grind their teeth.
Children who grind their teeth do so at two times during their childhood, (i) when their baby teeth emerge and (ii) when their permanent teeth come in.
However, in most cases, their grinding habits stop after these two sets of teeth have come in.
Most often, children grind their teeth during sleep rather than their waking hours.
The causes are not clear but most often, improperly aligned teeth or irregular contact between upper and lower teeth, illness, and other medical conditions such as malnutrition, pinworms, allergies, etc
Sometimes certain psychological conditions such as anxiety and stress in children can cause teeth grinding. Problems rarely occur when children have baby teeth. However, it can cause jaw pain, headaches, wear on teeth, and TMD.
In most cases, teeth grinding does not cause any serious damage but excessive teeth grinding can lead to certain oral and dental complications like:
- Damage to teeth, crowns, restorations, or jaw
- Severe facial and jaw pain
- Temporomandibular joints (TMJs)
Your dentist is most likely to identify the signs and symptoms of Bruxism during a systematic review and regular examination of your teeth.
If they see any signs and symptoms, they will more likely look for changes and mouth over the next several visits to see if the problem progress and determine whether you need treatment or not
In case your dentist suspects Bruxism, then they would ask you general questions about your dental health, daily routines, and sleep habits.
Your dentist may also check for tenderness in your jaws, dental abnormalities like broken or missing teeth, or damage to your teeth, bone.
They will also take a dental X-ray to check if there is any damage to the gums and bones.
If your dentist identifies that the cause of teeth grinding is related to your sleep disorder, they will refer you to another doctor that would treat your sleep disorders.
A sleep specialist will conduct other tests and access your sleep pattern for episodes of teeth grinding and determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea or other disorders.
You may be referred to a therapist or counselor if your doctor identifies any psychological issues like stress or anxiety.
Treatment is not necessary in many cases. Most of the time, children outgrow their teeth grinding habits without treatment.
Many a time, even adults do not require treatment as they do not clench and grind their teeth badly.
In some cases, your dentist might recommend muscle relaxants to reduce the activity of your muscles involved in Bruxism. By doing so, they intend to make sure there is no excessive wear and tear of teeth and their enamel.
However, if the problem is severe, your dentist after a systematic review of your dental and oral health conditions will refer to dental solutions to treat this problem.
At other times, however, if your habit is because of psychological disorders, your dentist would refer you to a counselor or therapist.
Dental Approaches: If your doctor identifies the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding in your mouth, they will suggest ways to improve or preserve your teeth.
Your dentist will recommend you use certain Toothache Remedies.
These will help you prevent wearing your teeth, but they may not stop Bruxism.
Some of these dental approaches are as follows:
Mouthguards and Splints
Mouthguards work by cushioning your teeth and stopping them from grinding against each other while your sleep.
They can be custom-made or you can buy them from over-the-counter.
In case you have chronic sleep bruxism, custom-made mouthguards may help you protect your teeth from damage.
They may also help to prevent stains on your jaw. Custom-made mouthguards are made of varying thickness and they fit specifically to your jaw’s size and shape.
They are usually more comfortable as compared to OTC products.
While buying OTC mouth guards, look for the ones that are made of plastic or the ones you can boil to soften them.
It is a dental procedure that your dentist will use to reshape or level the biting surface of your teeth.
It is effective if the cause of teeth grinding is crowding, misalignment, or crooked teeth.
However, your dentist may perform an additional procedure to build up your teeth. YOu can learn more about toothache remedies here.
Other Treatment Options
Psychological Approaches: Your dentist will treat the damage to your teeth. However, if they diagnose the cause to be psychological, they will also refer you to a therapist.
Your therapist will treat your stress and anxiety along with sleep disorders if any. The following approaches can be used:
For some people, the cause of teeth grinding is linked to psychological issues like stress and anxiety.
If your grind your teeth because of it, stress reduction techniques can help you overcome it.
It also affects your health in a positive way affecting your overall health.
Some stress reduction techniques are:
Meditation: It helps to elevate anxiety, pain, and depression.
Yoga: Yoga helps significantly reduce depression, stress, and anxiety. You can either join yoga sessions in a gym or practice them at home.
Talk Therapy: talking to a friend, therapist or counselor helps reduce stress and depression. A psychiatrist may also prescribe your medication if it is affecting your daily routine.
Tongue and Jaw Muscle Exercise
These exercises help you relax the jaw muscles and maintain proper alignment of your jaw.
You can try them at home after consulting your therapist.
Try the following exercises at home:
- Open your mouth while touching your tongue to the front teeth. This helps to relax your jaws
- Say the letter N out loud. This will keep your teeth on top and bottom from touching and help you avoid clenching.
Gently massage your jaw to loosen the muscles.
When to Seek Help?
If you see visible signs and symptoms of excessive teeth grinding like headache or pain in your jaw and neck, you should consult your dentist.
They can examine your teeth for wearing down enamel and will also check your bite and teeth alignment.
Your dentist may recommend you seeing another doctor for the treatment of underlying conditions.
Teeth grinding is a common condition amongst children and adults and often does not cause any serious oral and dental problems.
You should have regular dental check-ups so that your dentist can treat teeth grinding problems.
Your dentist and doctor are good resources for the diagnosis and will recommend you to get treatment. The treatment may involve getting mouth guards and splinters to protect your teeth and may refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment of underlying conditions.