Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (also called bruxism) is an extremely common issue that’s often related to stress, anxiety or sleep disorders. Most people who grind their teeth or clench their jaw aren’t even aware they’re doing it. It often happens during sleep or periods of intense concentration or stress. Over time, however, teeth grinding can wear down the tooth enamel and cause other problems in the body.
Why do people grind their teeth?
The reasons why we grind our teeth vary from person to person and aren’t always clear. However, common causes include:
- Certain types of medicines (in particular SSRI antidepressants)
- Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, sleep paralysis, restless leg syndrome or semi-conscious hallucinations
- Bruxism that runs in the family
- Lifestyle factors may also make teeth grinding more likely, including drinking alcohol, smoking, excessive caffeine consumption or recreational drug use.
What are the risks of grinding your teeth?
Teeth grinding affects more than your teeth. Common complications that can arise from teeth grinding or clenching include:
- Aching muscles
- Facial pain
- Disrupted sleep
- Jaw and/or neck pain or stiffness
- Headaches after you wake up
- In severe cases, damaged or worn-down teeth, which can lead to sensitivity or even tooth loss
Many of these symptoms often disappear when you stop grinding or clenching your teeth.
When to see us
If left untreated, severe or excessive teeth grinding can wear down the tooth enamel and expose your tooth to infection or dental abscesses. In extreme cases, tooth grinding can even lead to tooth loss. To avoid developing further problems, you should always make an appointment with us if:
- Your face, jaw or ear is painful.
- You have a tooth fracture or chip.
- You notice gum recession.
- You have joint pain, stiffness or tenderness.
- You’ve been told you grind your teeth in your sleep.
- Teeth grinding is affecting your sleep quality or that of a partner.
- Your teeth are damaged or worn-down.
- Your teeth are sensitive to hot/cold temperatures or sweetness.
We’ll check your teeth and mouth for signs of teeth grinding and may recommend treatment to prevent future issues.
How can we help you with teeth grinding?
While there’s no quick-fix cure for clenching or grinding your teeth, there are several things we can do to help you break the habit. Firstly, a thorough examination will help to diagnose whether you have bruxism, or whether your symptoms are the result of another dental or medical problem. We may then prescribe you one of the following treatments:
- Jaw rest
- A professional mouthguard
- Hot or cold compresses
- Specific exercises to correct compromised head or neck positions
- Ways or medication to deal with any dental pain or sensitivity
We can also give you practical advice on how to stop grinding or clenching your teeth, and offer options to repair or treat any resulting damage to the teeth, gums or jaws.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
Teeth grinding can also be associated with a group of conditions that affect the jaw, called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, TMD or jaw joint dysfunction.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a jaw joint that allows your bone to move from side to side, as well as backwards and forwards. This sophisticated hinge also allows you to open and close your mouth.
TMJ disorder (or TMD) can be painful and can limit mobility in the jaw joint, causing problems with speaking, eating and drinking. Depending on your particular case and the cause of your jaw pain, we may refer you to a physiotherapist, oral medical specialist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Chronic teeth grinding and/or TMD may also be treated by an occlusal splint. This is a removable night guard or bite guard that is specially moulded to fit the upper and lower arches of your mouth. Typically, this splint is worn only at night, when grinding or clenching of teeth commonly takes place. It creates a barrier between your lower and upper teeth and stops them from coming into contact with each other, thereby preventing your grinding or clenching from impacting your teeth.
If you suspect you’re a habitual teeth grinder or you’re bothered by symptoms of teeth grinding (including headaches and facial pain), then we can help. Book an appointment at Sleep Dentistry Melbourne online or call our friendly team on 1300 275 337.