Are you grinding away your Teeth?
by Dr. Sean
Bruxism is the fancy name for grinding, clenching or gnashing the teeth together.
Most people who grind their teeth are unaware that they are doing it. Only about 5% of those who grind will seek early treatment. Although some people clench and grind during the day, the majority of damage is done at night while asleep. This explains why most people are not aware that they may grind or clench.
What causes bruxism?
Emotional stress, tension and anxiety are the main reasons why we grind or clench our teeth. When speaking to patients after diagnosing bruxism, we may find a life changing event such as moving house as an underlying contributor to stress.
Other reasons are physical such as an irregular bite (the way the teeth fit together) or improper relationship of the upper and lower jaws.
So what are the signs and symptoms.. How do you know if you are grinding your teeth?
- Your teeth have recently become more sensitive than usual.
Teeth grinding or clenching, when done over a period of time will cause loss of the protective layer of the tooth- the enamel. Enamel cannot be replaced! Without enamel, our teeth are extremely sensitive to temperature and other stimuli.
- You have chipped some enamel or broken a filling.
Whilst enamel is an extremely hard substance, grinding or bruxing while asleep can cause large chunks of enamel to break away from a tooth. Similarly, fillings can be broken when subjected to the high forces that we create when grinding or clenching.
- Your partner notices strange sounds coming from your mouth while you sleep.
Because bruxism primarily happens during sleep, sometimes the only indicator will be a partner noticing the terrible sound of grinding. Think nails on a chalkboard!
- You wake with a dull headache or tension in the jaw muscles.
Bruxism can be a cause of morning headaches with or without tension in the jaw muscles.
- Flattened and worn teeth or yellowing of the teeth
Due to loss of the enamel layer. Under the enamel is a layer known as “‘dentine” which is more yellow in colour compared to enamel.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to see a dentist immediately!
What are the outcomes of bruxism?
- Worn down enamel. This will gradually result in the teeth appearing shorter and flatter on the edges. Once the enamel is worn through, the teeth can appear yellow due to dentine exposure.
- Chips, cracks and fractures in teeth and fillings. This can result in pain when chewing food and requires urgent attention by a dentist. In some cases, the result of fractures in teeth can lead to loss of the tooth.
- Muscular tension in the jaws and neck muscles. This can also precipitate headaches.
There are no medications that will prevent bruxism. Treatment tends to be focused on provision of a night guard or Splint.
Similar to a sports mouthguard, a splint fits securely around the upper teeth. It is made of hard acrylic and prevents tooth wear when worn at night. A splint will also aid in relaxing jaw muscles by not allowing full muscular contraction (due to presence of the splint between the teeth).
Improving the quality of sleep may help reduce your bruxism – this can include eliminating consumption of caffeine and nicotine and ensuring you have enough duration of sleep.
Reducing life stress will usually reduce bruxism – easier said than done!
Sometimes we take a wait and see approach. Stress can be transitory, thus bruxism may be too. Many children grind their teeth from a very young age. Studies have shown that the majority of children will “grow out” of bruxism when their permanent teeth come through.
If you are concerned that you may grind or clench your teeth excessively, and worried about the repercussions of this, contact Bay Dental Brighton on 95962092.
Or make an online appointment here.