Increase in teeth grinding as recession bites
The recession is not only taking a toll on people's finances and livelihoods, but also on their teeth, according to dentists.
Irish dentists say they have seen a dramatic increase in cases of dental damage caused by teeth-grinding.
An expert on bruxism - the scientific term for teeth-grinding, told the recent Irish Dental Association (IDA) annual conference that stress or anxiety is widely believed to be a contributing factor to this phenomenon, and many dentists feel this explains the surge in patients presenting with bruxism in recent years.
Dr Padraig MacAuliffe said that while estimates suggest that grinding affects up to 20% of the population, the real incidence could be higher.
He said up to one million people in Ireland may grind their teeth, and many may not realise they are doing it as it may take place while they are sleeping.
Signs of teeth-grinding, according to Dr MacAuliffe, include tenderness or stiffness of the jaw in the morning, headaches, and wear or damage to the teeth.
He said early detection is the key to treating teeth-grinding.
"Where bruxism is diagnosed early and appropriately managed, treatment can be successful and relatively simple."
The most common treatment is the use of a splint or mouthguard that protects the teeth from damage and helps relieve the muscle tension that causes facial pain and headache.
However, delays and diagnosis or failure by patients to use the splints provided by dentist can result in more persistent pain and damage to teeth that can be more difficult to repair as time goes on, Dr MacAuliffe said.
He said improving sleep quality may reduce the frequency of grinding. Keeping regular sleeping hours, avoiding alcohol and coffee in the evening and avoiding smoking will also help.
"Of course, if a person is stressed this becomes more of a challenge," Dr MacAuliffe said.
[Posted: Tue 22/05/2012]