Have you ever woken up with jaw ache, or a headache? Has your partner ever told you, you make loud crackling noises with your teeth whilst sleeping?

If so, then you may be suffering from teeth grinding (also known as bruxism).  If you do – you are not alone! Bruxism is a very common condition amongst the adult population, with reports of it affecting up to 80% of adults during their lifetime.

What Is Tooth Grinding?

Tooth grinding involves involuntarily rubbing or grinding your top teeth against your bottom teeth. This usually occurs when you are asleep or when you are preoccupied with a certain activity (i.e., you are not consciously aware you are doing it) – often the first-time patients realise they grind their teeth is when asked or told about it by a Dentist!  Dentists are able to tell this as we often see it when patients have been grinding their teeth to the point where it has caused damage or tooth wear.

What Causes Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)?

There are a multitude of genetic and environmental factors which correlate to why someone grinds their teeth. Some of these include:

Stress

This can lead to hyperactive jaw muscles and is particularly prevalent during times such as difficult periods at work, or in education (such as when someone is going through exam periods). It is thought that the adrenaline hormone has a big part to play and causes subconscious reflexes in the jaw muscles.

How Straight Your Teeth Are

If someone has a misaligned jaw or bite, such as an overbite/underbite, or they have more crowded teeth, there is a higher chance of tooth grinding occurring.

Stimulants

Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can promote the body’s reflexive movements. If you smoke just before you go to bed, you are at higher risk of grinding your teeth whilst you sleep.

Dehydration

Dehydration can contribute to teeth grinding, especially for those who drink alcohol before bed, or in warm weather.

Use of Anti-Depressants

Anti-depressants can increase the level of serotonin in the brain which can then lead to an increase in jaw clenching.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Grinding?

Below are some of the symptoms, signs and indications that you may be grinding your teeth at night, or whilst distracted:

  • Regular headaches and facial pain
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Worn down teeth
  • Increased frequency in broken/chipped teeth and fillings
  • Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ Disorder)
  • Sleep problems and fatigue

How Do You Treat Tooth Grinding?

Whilst there are numerous factors to reduce stress and reduce teeth grinding, the most effective way to treat tooth grinding is to wear a mouthguard or nightguard during sleep.

A mouthguard/nightguard is like a sports mouthguard, and is custom made for each patient to fit over either your top or bottom teeth. The mouthguard/nightguard separates the upper and lower teeth from each other so that any teeth grinding that occurs will not cause any further damage to the dentition (arrangement or condition of the teeth). The mouthguard/nightguard also adjusts the bite to its optimal position to help reduce and stop grinding.

When visiting a Dentist, the nightguard is made over two visits:

  1. The first visit involves taking an impression of the teeth. This impression is sent to a dental laboratory where the nightguard is made.  
  2. The nightguard is fitted, checked, and adjusted by the Dentist during the second visit.

What else can be done to Stop Grinding Teeth?

There are some things that you can do to help stop grinding teeth:

  • Research has shown that those with straighter teeth grind their teeth less, so having orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth (such as Invisalign) can help reduce grinding
  • Having missing or broken teeth can interfere with your bite, so fixing these issues with dental treatment such as fillings or crowns may reduce the amount you grind your teeth.
  • If you are more aware of teeth grinding as a habit, then consciously trying to relax your jaw during the day can help.  Certain jaw exercises can really help reduce the amount of tension in the jaw. Your Dentist will be able to advise you of these exercises if they think it will help reduce your grinding.
  • Certain habits such as chewing gum can increase tension and pressure on the jaw muscles. Therefore, cutting this out can help relax your jaw

If you are worried about grinding your teeth, or are experiencing any symptoms mentioned in this blog post, why not get it checked and book an appointment to see one of our Dentists.