The grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaw is medically termed as Bruxism. It can manifest when you are awake or asleep but most commonly it is the latter, affecting about 80% of bruxers.
You may not be aware of grinding your teeth while asleep. The grinding sounds and noises may be first noticed by a bed partner.
The main symptoms of Bruxism are:
- Teeth grinding – often diagnosed by your sleep partner.
- Headaches – specifically in the morning.
- Uncomfortable temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
- Neck pain and shoulder ache.
- Toothache or sensitive teeth.
- Abnormal tooth wear and/or fracturing of teeth.
Unfortunately, most of these symptoms, i.e. migraines, earache, and a stiff neck/jaw do not overtly suggest that clenching and grinding of teeth may be the cause – leaving bruxism one of the most under diagnosed conditions in the UK.
So what causes Bruxism?
The most frequent cause is stress and anxiety. This is justified for about 70% of cases. There are also relations with medications such as antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, and lifestyle choices like, smoking, alcohol and the use of drugs.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above see your dentist. They can help to ascertain whether you have bruxism or not. This may involve checking for any wear and damage to your teeth, examining the muscles in and around your jaw and the function of the jaw joints, which are located in front of your ears.
How is Bruxism Treated?
A bite-guard can be made to be worn while you sleep, if you happen to grind your teeth at night. This is akin to a mouthguard and guards your teeth and jaw muscles against the pressure of grinding and clenching.
If stress and anxiety are the source of your bruxism then therapies such as relaxation techniques, yoga or counseling are often recommended.
Reducing the consumption of alcohol and giving up smoking and recreational drugs is also advised.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above and believe that it is due to bruxism then please do visit your dentist.