Do you grind or clench your teeth?

It is common nowadays to either know someone who grinds or clenches their teeth, or even go through periods of it yourself.

‘Bruxism’ is the dental term used for describing periods of teeth grinding and/or clenching. This habit can take place both during the day, or whilst sleeping.

What are the effects of bruxism?

The impact that this habit has on teeth and associated structures depends on its frequency, severity and duration. This can result in the following:

  • Tooth wear
  • Cracked teeth and fillings
  • Damage to other restorative dental work e.g. chipped, broken or loose crowns, implants etc.
  • On-going sensitivity and pain
  • Nerve pain and related problems
  • TMD (temporomandibular disorder) which refers to pain and associated problems with the jaw joints and muscles around the face

What contributes to teeth grinding?

The cause of bruxism is usually due to a variety of factors which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Stress and anxiety levels – periods of increased stress and anxiety e.g. increased workload, lifestyle changes, exercising at the gym, during examination periods etc.
  • Misalignment/crowding of teeth – in severe cases of teeth misalignment or crookedness there can be an imbalance in the “normal” position of the teeth. In some cases this can promote the premature contact or collision of certain teeth, thereby making them more prone to wear and tear
  • Medical conditions – certain medical conditions can make people more prone to bruxism
  • Side effect of medication/drugs – certain legal medications as well as illicit drugs can promote teeth grinding and clenching

Best approach for management?

Since there are several factors that can contribute to bruxism, it is important to identify and thereby allowing for the modification of the contributing causes.

During your routine dental exam your dentist will assess your teeth and jaw joints, and notify you if there are any visible signs of teeth grinding or clenching. If you notice these habits yourself then contact your dentist as soon as possible so that they can assess the situation.

Once the habit has been detected it will then be between your dentist and yourself to identify possible contributing factors. If the factors can be determined then hopefully some of them can be modified or eliminated which may involve the following:

  • Stress and anxiety management – identifying and addressing the contributing cause of stress and anxiety, exercise, healthy diet, establishing good sleeping patterns
  • Orthodontics – alignment of crowded teeth may help in severe malocclusion cases may help to remove premature contact between teeth
  • Medical assistance – in some cases where there is on-going life or work stresses then a medical G.P. may recommend the prescription of medications to help reduce stress and anxiety levels
  • Night Guard – a protective splint made by the dentist to help prevent further damage to the teeth and to alleviate the stress placed on the jaw joints (TMJ). This splint is custom designed for your teeth to help keep it comfortably secured, and is worn during periods of bruxism e.g. wearing whilst at the gym, before going to sleep etc.

If you or someone close to you experiences bruxism (teeth grinding and/or clenching) then it is recommended that you see your local dentist to identify and manage this habit. If detected and addressed early on then it can help prevent further damage to your teeth and jaw joints which can end up being very costly in the long term.