Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the clenching of the jaw and rubbing together of the teeth. It is often done unconsciously, particularly during sleep. Sometimes the noise created by teeth grinding can be so loud that it keeps partners and other people in the house awake!
Most people who grind their teeth in their sleep may not experience any major problems as a result – in fact, they may not even be aware that they are doing it. But in extreme cases, tooth grinding can have a seriously damaging effect, not just on the state of a person’s teeth, but on other aspects of their health.
The problems tooth grinding can cause
The most obvious problem caused by tooth grinding is the wearing down of teeth. If this wear goes unnoticed it can lead to cracks and chips in the enamel of the tooth. Teeth can become more sensitive, and can even be loosened by the pressure caused by grinding. It can also cause an immense amount of pressure on the bones and muscles in the jaw, and to other muscles in the head and neck. Eventually this can cause problems such as earache, head and neck pain, even dizziness and hearing problems.
The pain and loss of sleep that can result from excessive tooth grinding can also lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, not only for the grinder but for those who have to live with this noisy and worrying problem. Stress and anxiety can also be a cause of teeth grinding, and if you are a sufferer it is well worth looking at external pressures in your life which may be contributing to your problem.
How we can treat a tooth grinding problem
One way of treating bruxism is by fitting a special mouthguard, or splint, which is worn at night to reduce the pressure of tooth grinding and prevent further damage to the teeth.
Teeth grinding is often the body’s way of trying to correct a malocclusion, or incorrect bite. If the upper and lower teeth do not bite together comfortably, the teeth grind together in an effort to correct the problem. But more often than not this makes things worse, leading to more grinding, and increased strain on the teeth and jaws. If teeth grinding appears to be caused by malocclusion, orthodontic treatment may be the answer.
If your teeth grinding is causing you misery, or if you have any of the symptoms described above, come and talk to your dentist. We can diagnose and treat your problems, giving you and your loved ones some peace at night.
Take a look at the website for The British Society of Occlusal Studies for more information.