Bruxism is the term for jaw clenching and tooth grinding, with “sleep bruxism” being the most common type, affecting 10% of the population according to the Bruxism Association. It is most common in 25-44 year olds.
All of us probably do it to some extent, but it can cause a range of problems if it is severe and prolonged.
What are the tell tale signs?
You will probably know yourself if you are bruxing. Tenderness over the angles of the jaw (where the jaw muscles are attached), jaw joint pain / clicking / locking, headaches and earache are all common symptoms.
Your teeth may become sensitive or loose, and you may be able to see that they are becoming worn down at the front, the back or both (although tooth wear does not happen in all cases).
Your partner may also be aware that you are grinding even if you are not… it can be a very noisy habit!
Why is it happening?
Bruxism is classified as a “parafunctional habit” which means it is not related to normal function. Individual causes or triggers are not always easy to identify.
There is an association with stress and anxiety. A recent study found that stress was a contributory factor in 70% of a group of bruxists.
Excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol and tobacco usage are also associated.
Can it cause problems?
If excessive, yes it can. As well as facial or dental pain and waking your better half up with the racket, the main effect is tooth wear.
Once the enamel of your teeth is lost, it’s lost forever so this can lead to complicated and expensive dental work to restore tooth size and shape e.g. with veneers/ crowns. And these could chip off very quickly unless the grinding is managed. Sensitivity to hot and cold can also be an issue if wear is pronounced.
So what can be done about it?
With specific causes often being difficult to identify, treatment is usually directed at managing the consequences.
You should consult your dentist if you think your teeth are worn, damaged or sensitive and if you suffer from jaw or facial pain.
Treatments include the following:
- Soft splints: worn over the upper or lower teeth at night time. Research indicates that this is the most effective treatment.
- Hard splints: these may be able to identify problems with your bite. Your dentist can advise if this is appropriate for you
- Orthodontic (brace) treatment: to reposition front teeth so they don’t wear against each other
- Muscle relaxation techniques
- Behavioural approaches e.g. hypnosis, meditation
Most dentists are experienced in the provision of soft splints. The other approaches may require a specialist referral.
Good “sleep hygiene” may also help i.e. avoidance of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco before bed.
What about the stress?
It is probably worth consulting your GP if you feel that stress and anxiety are contributing towards your grinding habit. Other problems may be picked up such as high blood pressure.
Bruxism Association www.bruxism.org.uk
Stress Management Society www.stress.org.uk
About Cleveland Orthodontics
Our specialist-led practice has been established since 1996 and provides brace treatment to people of all ages from across the North East, including Middlesbrough, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham and Redcar.
We offer NHS orthodontic treatment for children and a range of modern white and “invisible” braces for adults of all ages such as Invisalign. FREE consultations are available… you can either telephone for an appointment on 01642 243 020 or book through our website.
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