Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common sleeping disorder that occurs in eight percent of adults. Characterized by clenching or grinding teeth during sleep, bruxism is also found in 15 percent to 33 percent of the child population.
Bruxism, on occasion, is not harmful, but health consequences can occur when it happens regularly. Those who grind their teeth habitually often report disturbed sleep, facial pain, and moderate to severe teeth damage.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Causes of bruxism are largely unknown, although several studies link it with several factors. They include:
-Abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
-Intake of amphetamines or anti-depressants
-Competitive, hyperactive or aggressive personality
-Complication stemming from a disorder, such as Parkinson’s and-Huntington’s disease
Signs and Symptoms
Chronic bruxism causes several health problems. It is often associated with the following signs and symptoms:
-Sore teeth and gums
-Worn-down tooth enamel
-Chronic facial pain
-Jaw muscle tightness or tiredness
In chronic cases of teeth grinding, more severe symptoms can occur. Facial pain and tension-type headaches become more pronounced. Consistent bruxism usually results to loosening, fracturing and eventual damage to teeth. Sadly, any of these events warrant dental interventions, such as the placement of partial/complete dentures, implants, root canals, bridges and crowns.
Teeth damage caused by bruxism can also result in hearing loss and jaw and facial changes. It can also cause temporomandibular disorders.
When to See Your Doctor
Most often than not, bruxism is so mild that there is no treatment warranted. However, you need to see your doctor if you bear the following symptoms:
-Worn, damaged and sensitive teeth
-Ear, jaw or facial pain
-Grinding noise when you sleep, as complained by your partner/family
When it comes to bruxism, treatment is usually geared towards removing the underlying causes.
If stress is the root of your teeth grinding, visit your physician. Sign up for stress reduction strategies, such as stress counselling and exercise. Enlist the assistance of a physical therapist. In severe cases, your physician can prescribe you with muscle relaxants.
Since caffeine intake triggers bruxism, limit or avoid intake of caffeinated beverages. Examples include coffee, sodas and cocoa drinks.
Limit alcohol consumption, since alcohol intoxication can also cause bruxism.
Avoid chewing on inedible items, such as your pens and pencils. Avoid chewing gum, since it conditions your jaw to clenching. By doing so, you increase your chances of suffering from bruxism during sleep.
Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth. If you see yourself doing so during the day, place the tip of your tongue on top of your teeth. This will help your jaw muscles to relax.
Before going to sleep, place a warm washcloth on top of your cheek. Place it in front of your earlobe so as to relax your tense jaw muscles.
On most cases, dentists recommend patients to wear mouth guards, in order to protect their teeth from the harmful effects of constant grinding.