Teeth grinding or clenching is a common problem. Medically known as Bruxism, teeth grinding is the action of rubbing teeth together whilst not chewing food. Teeth clenching occurs when the teeth are held together and the jaw muscles are clenched, but the teeth do not move.
People who suffer from Bruxism are often not aware of their actions. It can occur during the daytime, and also during sleep. During sleep individuals have little control over the movement, and therefore can be unaware of the symptoms until they have caused real problems.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
Often, there will be no symptoms caused by bruxism, especially if it is mild and occasional. However, for more serious cases the following symptoms can occur:
- Muscle and jaw pain
- Worn enamel, leading to increased sensitivity and damage
- Chipped, flattened or broken teeth
- Headaches and earaches
- Enlarged jaw muscles
- Sleep disruption due to pain and/or noise from grinding
It is important to see a dentist if you experience one or more of the above symptoms.
Causes of Bruxism
The cause of Bruxism is not always clear. However, it has been linked to stress, anxiety, tension, medications, substances and sleep disorders:
- During periods of stress and anxiety clenching and grinding can occur. This is a common cause of bruxism and many people do not realise they are doing it. Clenching caused by stress and tension often happens during sleep when sufferers have little control over their movement.
- Some medications can also cause clenching, including an antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Smoking, recreational drugs, caffeine and alcohol can also increase the risk of bruxism.
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, snoring, sleep paralysis and sleep talking can also increase the chances of bruxism.
While there is no cure for Bruxism, the symptoms can be treated. For clenching during sleep, a mouth guard can be created. This will stop the teeth from meeting during grinding that occurs during the night, preventing erosion and damage to the teeth. Treating stress, anxiety and sleep disorders will also help, as will reducing medications and substance use.