Grinding Teeth – SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT & PREVENTION

If you wake up with sore jaw muscles or a headache, chances are you’re grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. The medical term for this condition is bruxism.

Bruxism is an unconscious habit that can be brought about by stress and tension, but can happen for no apparent reason. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, though, grinding your teeth together chips and wears away at tooth enamel and the chewing surfaces of your teeth. If allowed to continue and in extreme cases, grinding your teeth may lead to toothaches or cause your teeth to become loose by destroying the bone that surrounds them. In some cases, grinding your teeth can lead to issues involving your jaw joint and muscles, such as temporomandibular joint syndrome.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Many people don’t realise they’re grinding their teeth until someone tells them they can hear it or until their dentist discovers damage to their teeth.

You may be unconsciously grinding your teeth if you experience the following bruxism symptoms:

  • Sore jaw muscles;
  • Aches in your head or neck.

If you think you may be grinding your teeth, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can to discuss bruxism treatment options.

TREATMENT

If tension and everyday stress are causing you to grind your teeth, try finding ways to relax, such as listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or running a bath. A warm compress or wet washcloth against the side of your face can help relieve muscles that are sore from clenching. It may also help to seek counseling or training in relaxation techniques to assist with control of the muscle tension in your jaw.

If these simple self-care techniques do not relieve your bruxism symptoms, schedule an appointment with your local dental clinic to discuss other options. They may recommend that you wear a bite plate or splint. These appliances are designed to slip over your upper teeth, prevent them from grinding against your lower teeth, and can help train your jaw to close in a more favourable position.

Your dentist may also find that some adjustment to your bite is advisable to help you stop grinding your teeth. Repair of the damage your tooth grinding has caused to tooth tissue may also be required. This can be done using fillings or crowns.

PREVENTION

The best way to prevent bruxism is to ensure that the muscles in your jaw are relaxed. If you have a tendency to carry stress in your upper neck and face, it may be worthwhile seeking counseling or training in relaxation techniques.

To ensure that your teeth are as strong as possible, follow the basic principles of daily oral care. Fluoride is our greatest defence against dental erosion and tooth decay. It is absorbed directly into tooth enamel and helps replace the essential minerals that are eroded daily by plaque or food acids, thus making your teeth stronger.

Adults should brush their teeth, tongue and gums twice daily — before bed and first thing in the morning — using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and drink water that contains fluoride.

Be sure to remove plaque between your teeth by flossing every day.For good measure, you may also want to consider rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash. If you’re concerned or unsure, ask your dentist whether you’re getting enough fluoride in your daily oral care routine.

By limiting your intake of acidic foods and beverages, you’re also reducing your teeth’s exposure to food acids, and this is a great way to prevent dental erosion. Sugar-free beverages are often highly acidic, so be mindful of how many you drink in a day. Try swapping these for glasses of water. It’s also good practice to rinse your mouth with water after consuming a sugary or acidic beverage.

Last but not least, be sure to schedule regular, six-monthly visits with your dentist to monitor your oral health, and to look for early tooth decay or gum disease that can be reversed.