Teeth grinding causes pain and is harmful if it is a regular occurrence. While many of us clench our jaws or grind our teeth occasionally, those who suffer from nocturnal teeth grinding will often find that it triggers a host of other oral health problems.
Why is teeth grinding harmful?
The medical term for jaw clenching and teeth grinding is bruxism. The friction and stress created by grinding place excessive force on the teeth, gums and jaw. This can contribute to fractured teeth and damaged dental restorations, such as bridges, crowns, fillings and even root canal work.
Teeth grinding wears down the enamel on your teeth. This causes them to become more sensitive and contributes to cavities that are easier for bacteria to get into, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
It may also be a factor in occlusal trauma. Grinding also puts additional pressure on tooth roots, and excessive forces stretch the ligaments that attach the teeth to the supporting bone, causing the tooth to become loose.
The pressure on the tissues and muscles around the jaw from grinding teeth can also cause temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ/TMD). This is where the jaw meets the skull and could lead to pain and improper function of the joints.
Teeth grinding causes
Anxiety and stress
It’s not uncommon for teeth grinding to be triggered by stress, anxiety, or depression.
These can all contribute to tension in the body, which can trigger bruxism as the body’s emotional and physical response.
Thus, a hyperactive personality and stressful periods, including bereavement, divorce or other stressful situations can lead to teeth grinding.
Lifestyle habits, such as caffeine, alcohol, drug and tobacco use can also increase the chances of bruxism. The stimulants found in these substances can all break up sleep patterns, which, in turn, can cause muscles to hyperactivate, leading to jaw clenching and grinding.
Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite
Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite (when your teeth do not fit together well) may also be a factor in bruxism. If your teeth do not fit together well, it can prompt involuntary movements of the jaw such as grinding during your sleep as you attempt to get comfortable.
Sleep apnoea is a condition where your breathing stops intermittently during sleep. It’s often characterised by loud snoring and is caused by the airways becoming obstructed as the soft tissues in the throat relax.
Although there appears to be a correlation between sleep apnoea and bruxism, research has not yet established the underlying reasons why. It may be that grinding is a response to stopping breathing or that it helps to lubricate the back of the throat that can become very dry during sleep apnoea.
How do I know if I grind my teeth during sleep?
Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth during sleep unless they have a partner who tells them. But there are some tell-tale signs and symptoms. Unexplained facial pain, soreness, headaches, earache and stiffness in the TMJ could be signs that you grind your teeth in your sleep. Excessive wear and damage to the teeth, as well as sensitivity, could also be indications of bruxism.
Treatments for teeth grinding
Teeth grinding causes are varied. If you suspect you have bruxism, you should schedule an appointment with one of our dentists. We will need to determine the cause by examining your mouth to assess damage to your teeth or other abnormalities, as well as going through your history and sleep habits. Treatment will vary and depend upon what the cause is found to be.
Dental treatments include splints and mouth guards. These are tailor-made to fit over the teeth, creating a barrier between the upper and lower arches to prevent damage to the teeth. They are typically made from acrylic and are worn while you sleep. If you have excessive wear to the teeth, you may need additional treatment to repair any damage.
Other approaches you may want to try include anxiety or stress management with relaxation techniques or altering your lifestyle choices so that your body is not tense when you go to bed. You may also benefit from referral to a sleep medicine specialist if your teeth grinding is caused by a sleep-related disorder, such as sleep apnoea.
For further information about teeth grinding causes and how to treat them, Get in touch with us for a thorough assessment. We can help to establish the best course of action and repair any damage to your teeth or dental restorations.