17 Sep Teeth grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism is the habit of clenching, gnashing or grinding your teeth. Your teeth are not meant to be clenched and in contact all the time. They should only briefly touch each other when you swallow or chew. If they are in contact too often or too forcefully, it can wear down the tooth enamel. This is the outer layer that covers each tooth. Without this to protect the inner parts of your teeth, you may have dental problems. Clenching or grinding your teeth regularly can also lead to pain in the jaw or in the muscles of the face. Bruxism happens during sleep, but some people also suffer from this when awake.
Usually a person does not realise that they are grinding their teeth in their sleep. The partner who shares their bed and hear the grinding noises at night is often the first to notice the problem.
Mild bruxism (teeth grinding) may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders (locking jaw), jaw pain or ear pain, aching teeth, headaches, damaged teeth (cracked or chipped teeth/fillings) and other problems.
Because you may have sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop, it’s important to seek regular dental care.
Possible physical or psychological causes of bruxism may include:
- Emotions, such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension
- Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
- Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
- Other sleep problems, such as sleep apnea
- Response to pain from an earache or teething (in children)
- Stomach acid reflux into the esophagus
Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard/splint to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counselling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.
If a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit.