Teeth grinding is a surprisingly common occurrence and often happens whilst asleep. Most people are therefore unaware they have this habit, which is called bruxism and only come to realise it when their partner complains of the noise the following morning.
Other noticeable effects of grinding (bruxism) are:
- Jaw pain
- Facial and neck pain
- Sleep disorder – both yourself and partner
- Sensitivity to hot and cold drinks
- Worn down teeth and/or tooth fractures
- Damage to your gums and bone, leading to loose teeth
Why do we grind?
The most common reason for grinding is when we try and compensate for an imperfect bite. This is when the upper and lower jaw comes together but the teeth don’t seem to fit comfortably and you therefore try and force them into a perfect bite. Imagine chewing hard but with no food in your mouth.
You may also find that you suffer from jaw clenching, which if combined with grinding, will cause greater discomfort and damage to the teeth.
It is also thought that stress can lead to grinding although you may be equally unaware that you are doing so as it often happens during your sleep.
As you try to compensate for having an imperfect bite you end up biting harder, causing damage to the enamel on your teeth. It becomes a vicious circle and as you bite harder to try and make your teeth fit together properly, you end up creating more damage to your teeth by initially wearing down your tooth enamel to gradually wearing down the tooth itself.
The forces created during grinding and clenching are far greater than when you normally bite or chew food which is why this habit can be so damaging. Without treatment it is possible for bruxism to affect your jaw joints, resulting in an aching jaw and facial pain that can radiate down into your neck and shoulders and which may cause you to wake up with chronic headaches.
What can be done?
As most grinding occurs during your sleep, the most common solution is the use of a custom-made mouthguard to prevent grinding. This reduces the pressure of tooth grinding by preventing your teeth from contacting and helps prevent further damage to your teeth. Our dentist may also be able make adjustments to your teeth in order to achieve a better bite. This could involve adjusting your teeth or any dental appliances, or replacing any crowns, bridges or fillings that are old and worn and which no longer fit properly. Sometimes orthodontic treatment may help improve bruxism, correcting the alignment of your teeth so you can bite together comfortably.
If your grinding is a result from stress you may find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques and stress management.