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What is teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a condition when you regularly put unnecessary pressure to your teeth by grinding, gnashing, or clenching them together. Teeth grinding usually happen when you sleep, but one may also unconsciously clench their teeth during the day, too. About 20% of the population (adults and children) suffer from this condition and it can be very damaging.

What are the classifications of teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding can be classified as either primary or secondary. Primary bruxism is when you involuntarily grind your teeth due to underlying conditions. On the other hand, secondary bruxism is when a stimuli or third party factors (such as medications, or medical/psychiatric conditions) cause you to grind your teeth.

Why do I involuntarily grind my teeth?

Although it’s hard to exactly pinpoint the cause for primary bruxism, it is helpful to know what factors may be causing you to grind your teeth. Some are:

  • Malocclusion (abnormal bite)
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Stress- This is a big one!
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Sleep apnea
  • Teething (in children)
  • Habits associated with focusing or concentrating
  • Certain diseases (such as Parkinson’s)
  • Age (adults ageing 25 above are more inclined to grind their teeth involuntarily)
  • Illegal drugs
  • Drinking excessive amounts of tea, coffee, or alcohol
  • Occasionally smoking has been implemented

What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?

You may be grinding your teeth involuntarily when you notice symptoms such as:

  • Dull headache
  • Sore jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Tooth indentations on the tongue and cheek- often a white line from the friction can be seen on the cheek.
  • Chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth
  • Repeated broken fillings
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Worn teeth
  • Short teeth
  • Edge to edge bite
  • Teeth that look totally straight on their incisal edges i.e. all the incisors both the middle ones and the lateral ones and the canines are the same height.
  • Earache
  • Stiff jaw joint (TMJ)
  • Stiff shoulders

grinding Some patients wake themselves with grinding and symptoms tend to be worse in the morning when you have been grinding at night. Grinding also produces a really loud noise so partners are often able to easily hear you doing it. We always ask if a patient’s partner (if they have one) has ever said anything. Grinding is very damaging to your teeth so once you notice any of these symptoms, it is important that you consult your Maroubra dentist as soon as you can. Whilst it can take a long time to show noticeable wear, by the time this occurs so much damage has been done and the methods for improving the aesthetics are much more extensive and expensive.

What will happen if teeth grinding is left untreated?

If left untreated, your dental health will decline and you may eventually need crowns, dentures, and root canal treatments to restore your teeth’s appearance. It depends on how long the habit has been going on and how long it has been left untreated. Initially it doesn’t feel like a problem but over time you will wish you had looked at it. This is one circumstance where prevention is definitely better than cure.

What happens when I go to the dentist?

Your Maroubra dentist will check for any signs of teeth grinding as part of your examination. If we see any, we will ask you a number of questions related to the symptoms discussed above. There may then be a period of monitoring or observation during which bruxism is confirmed or progressing to preventative treatment may be indicated straight away. X-rays are likely to be taken and your bite assessed then the extent of the wear and if any other co-existing factors such as acid erosion exist. If your dentist suspects that sleep apnea is causing you to grind your teeth involuntarily, he may refer you to a sleep specialist to test your sleeping patterns. The sleep specialist will also take videos to monitor how frequent your jaw tightens while you sleep. However, if it is more stress related then we will discuss ways you may be able to reduce this aspect of your live. It’s not very good for your teeth or body for that matter!

What treatments can help cure my teeth grinding?

Your dentist in Maroubra most likely will give you a grinding guard, occlusal splint, night splint, night guard (all words for the same thing!) or a mandibular advancement device to protect your teeth from the unnecessary pressure brought about by bruxism. This last device will help if there is also an issue with sleep apnea or snoring. You may also try these steps to help stop your teeth grinding:

  • Avoid drinking or eating too much tea or coffee (and other caffeinated foods)
  • Consider treatment for any malocclusion
  • Try breathing techniques to help you ease stress and tension
  • If you tend to grind your teeth when focusing, try to be conscious of your grinding habits next time; This will enable you to actively stop yourself from teeth grinding- Awareness is key
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol near bedtime
  • Consider other forms of stress release
  • If your teeth grinding is caused by medications, ask your doctor if you can change it
  • Make sure you are getting adequate sleep each night

Should I be worried that my child is grinding his teeth?

Teeth grinding in children is very common as their baby and permanent teeth erupt. You don’t need to worry as this usually goes away by the time the teeth come through. However, once the adult teeth are fully through if the grinding habit is persisting then preventative treatment will be needed.