Many people are susceptible to grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw without realising they’re doing it. Grinding your teeth, (referred to as Bruxism) can cause numerous amounts of oral health problems as well as muscular pains and headaches.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Often those who grind their teeth are asleep and unaware of what they are doing. If you are experiencing these symptoms you are more than likely clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth unknowingly;
- Facial pain
- Pain and stiffness around your jaw joint (Temporomandibular joint) and surrounding muscles which can lead to ‘TMD’ (Temporomandibular Disorder)
- Disrupted sleep
- Worn down teeth (can lead to sensitivity and tooth loss)
- Broken/chipped teeth or fillings
Why do I grind my teeth or clench my jaw?
Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth are often related to stress, anxiety, when you are concentrating or when you are asleep. Certain medications have also been known to cause Bruxism as a side effect. In particular, grinding your teeth is linked to an anti-depressant called ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Additionally, medications and certain lifestyle choices also have effects. These lifestyle choices consist of continuous consumption of caffeine (six or more cups of coffee or energy drinks a day) and alcohol, smoking and the use of recreational drugs such as Ecstasy.
Besides those factors, sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) can often be a cause of Bruxism. You have a likelihood of grinding your teeth in your sleep if you talk or mumble (while sleeping), experience sleep paralysis, or hallucinations.
What are the effects?
Not only does Bruxism damage your teeth, one of the major risks is damaging your enamel (the protective layer of your teeth). You may experience stress fractures in your enamel of your back teeth (molars), if you are not treated early enough these fractures appear light brown in colour and are often be mistaken as cavities. It’s important to remember that stress fractures do not necessarily mean that your tooth will crack, although with no treatment these fractures can become deeper and lead to a more serious crack in your tooth/teeth.
Once damaged, your enamel loses its living cells and nerves which means it cannot repair itself, this is when preventative treatment is needed.
Cracks and chips in your teeth can have serious consequences where good oral health is concerned. As your enamel is damaged there is no defence in fighting off bacteria, acids or chemicals in your mouth. This makes your mouth vulnerable to infections. Your dentist may cover the affected tooth/teeth with Fluoride, which acts as a protective layer.
Cracked teeth also shows a concern that your Pulp will be exposed. The pulp is the inner soft tissue underneath the hard layer of your tooth (your Dentin), this is where your tooth’s nerve and blood vessels are located. When your tooth is cracked, movement in your mouth and jaw can cause movement of your pulp which becomes irritated and damaged. Exposure of your pulp and dentin means you are prone to bacteria in your mouth; this type of damage is irreparable.
Jaw misalignment almost always occurs when Bruxism is left untreated. Excessive pressure placed on your jaw can cause persistent discomfort, making everyday tasks such as; talking, chewing, swallowing and biting eminently painful.
How can I stop and what are the restorative options?
If you feel like your teeth are beginning to wear or feel damaged and sensitive, it’s vital you visit your dentist at your earliest convenience.
To treat teeth grinding your dentist may recommend using a mouth guard when you are asleep. This reduces the desire to clench your jaw and/or grind your teeth, as well as reducing the discomfort and the wearing of your teeth.
Other treatments for Bruxism may include muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene. If your Bruxism has been determined from stress or anxiety then Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) may be recommended.
If your teeth have been completely worn down due to grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw then Dental Implants are not usually considered or recommended, simply because Bruxism is usually uncontrollable and patients could result in grinding their implant so close to their gum line that it could cause serious damage to their jaw.
If you are living with Bruxism please contact us at Mark Tangri Dental Excellence on 0333 1234 999, and let us talk you through some options.