Most people clench and/or grind their teeth unconsciously during the day or in their sleep which is medically known Bruxism.
Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems.
WHY DO PEOPLE GRIND THEIR TEETH?
Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. It can also be caused by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea or associated with snoring.
HOW TO CHECK IF I’M GRINDING MY TEETH?
Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:
- Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to wake up your sleep partner.
- Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose.
- Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth.
- Increased tooth pain or sensitivity.
- Sore, tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely.
- Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear.
- Dull headache starting in the temples.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Sleep disruption.
If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. They can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and excessive wear on your teeth.
DO CHILDREN GRIND THEIR TEETH?
The problem of teeth grinding is not limited to adults. Approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth. Children who grind their teeth tend to do so at two peak times — when their baby teeth emerge and when their permanent teeth come in. Most children lose the teeth grinding habit after these two sets of teeth have come in more fully and seldom require any interventions or treatments.
Most commonly, children grind their teeth during sleep rather than during waking hours. It is unclear as to why children grind their teeth, but it may be due to improperly aligned teeth or irregular contact between upper and lower teeth and psychological factors including anxiety and stress.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT GRINDING MY TEETH?
Your dentist can fit you with a Night guard (Occlusal Splint) to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.
If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counselling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be considered.
If a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it may reduce or eliminate the grinding habit.
Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:
- Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
- Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
- Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
- Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.
See your dentist or doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above or have other concerns about your teeth or jaw.
If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth — or has other signs or symptoms of bruxism — be sure to mention it at your child’s next dental appointment.