How to protect against teeth grinding
Dentist Zena Aseeley from The Parade Dental Practice in Cardiff answers your questions on teeth grinding.
Is teeth grinding and bruxism the same thing?
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It can occur in individuals as they sleep or while awake, consciously or without even knowing it. With the exception of chewing or swallowing (functional movements) there should be a small space between your top and bottom teeth meeting, for example when you’re in a general resting position. It is understood that most people grind and/or clench their teeth occasionally to a certain degree but when this becomes frequent or long term it can become a symptomatic disorder and cause dental issues.
How do I know if I grind my teeth?
The Bruxism Association in the UK suggests that teeth grinding effects around 8-10% of the population and is most common in 25-44 year olds. However, it can effect both children and adults. Over the long term this habit can cause tooth wear and breakage, pain or limited movement in the jaw as well as unexplained headaches (particularly present in the morning); so if you have these systems it might be worth seeing a dentist, or even asking a partner or friend to listen out for teeth grinding at night. Some individuals may even suffer for many years with neck and shoulder muscular tension and pain, which is triggered by the bruxism.
What causes this to develop?
Bruxism is thought to be a product of many factors both genetic and situational. In particular, teeth grinding has been associated with factors such as an irregular positioning of the teeth, stress and anxiety or even relating to the central nervous system and brain neurotransmitters.
What are the side effects of suffering from bruxism?
Bruxism can effect sufferers in varying degrees and forms and the impact of this can be short-term and disappear when the bruxism habit stops or be long-term and even permanent. Short-term symptoms can include; inflamed/receded gums, limited mouth and jaw movement, earaches, headaches, stiffer muscles in the neck, shoulders or face and sleep deprivation. Long-term sufferers can experience all the above symptoms along with excessive tooth-wear and even TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder).
What is the treatment for bruxism?
When looking at bruxism, it’s much better to act to prevent the problem as there is no specific cure. There are many preventative measures we can take to tackle the grind including; stress management, retainers, muscle relaxation techniques, meditation and occlusal splints (these are plastic guards made by your dentist to fit to your teeth just like a retainer to help protect them).
I think I suffer from bruxism, what do I do next?
If you think you’re grinding your teeth you may find that they appear worn, damaged, overly sensitive, or you experience pain in your face/ jaw. If this is the case and you think you could be suffering from bruxism, it is very important that you arrange a visit with your dentist for a clinical examination. They will give you the best advice on how to manage your symptoms and everything you can do to prevent you causing any further damage.
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