Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding

What is teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding, or bruxism to call it by its medical name, is a condition whereby people forcibly clench or grind their teeth. It most commonly happens without the sufferer noticing, usually at night or during sleep. However, some people grind their teeth while awake, as a subconscious habit. People who grind their teeth often also bite their nails, nibble on pens and pencils, or chew their lips or the inside of their cheeks.

Why do some people grind their teeth?

Exact causes of bruxism are not fully known. The condition affects adults more commonly than children and men and women in about equal measure. It is believed to be stress-related and emotional factors such as anxiety, anger, pain and frustration are associated with night time teeth grinding. People with extremely busy lifestyles, or who are competitive or aggressive by nature are more likely to grind their teeth. Some sleep disorders can stimulate grinding of the teeth and in all cases drinking alcohol will worsen the damage of teeth grinding.

Can teeth grinding cause serious harm?

When we chew food, an extremely strong force is applied between the teeth, in the region of 175 pounds per square inch (psi). But when people grind their teeth without food between the upper and lower jaw to take the impact, the force on teeth can be almost twice as strong. This can cause all sorts of damage to teeth, including cracking the enamel, wearing down teeth, hairline fractures and gum damage.

Teeth grinding can also cause aching and soreness in the facial muscles and jaw, not to mention earaches and headaches on waking in the morning. Over a period of time, bruxism can cause teeth to become sensitive, or even lost and the alignment of the jaws may fall out of balance. Other jaw related complaints can also develop.

How do I know whether I grind my teeth at night?

Because most episodes of teeth grinding occurs at night, most people who suffer from bruxism are not aware that they grind their teeth at all. It may be that a partner might notice a strange and disturbing noise at night or a dentist might guess from damage that has occurred to teeth. Though teeth grinding happens generally when people are unconscious, there are symptoms that may indicate the condition, and you can check for these:

  • Jaw or facial pain in the morning that lessens during the day
  • Headaches or earaches in the morning that lessen or disappear during the day
  • A disturbing noise noticed by a partner at night
  • Teeth are sensitive to cold or pressure
  • Teeth indentations on the tongue
  • Tips of teeth are becoming flatter

What can prevent teeth grinding?

If you suspect that you may be grinding your teeth, it is very important to attend your dentist for assessment. If there is any damage done to your teeth, the sooner your dentist can address the problem the better. Dentists can usually tell whether a person grinds their teeth and should be able to confirm if you are suffering from bruxism.

Your dentist or your GP may suggest that you wear a nightguard over your teeth. This is a plastic barrier that prevents the jaws from clashing and grinding off each other at night. There are other methods for physically preventing the grinding of teeth as well, but they are less common. Most people who grind their teeth are suffering from high levels of stress. Obtaining help from your family doctor in coping with stress may well by itself reduce the incidence of teeth grinding.

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