Bruxism, or regular grinding of the teeth, is a medical condition that affects many people, although it is most common in adults between the ages of 25 and 44. Many people grind their teeth subconsciously while sleeping, usually during times of stress. For some, the problem will come and go and may resolve itself naturally when contributing factors like anxiety, alcohol and recreational drugs are removed. However, bruxism that's left untreated can lead to tooth damage, jaw disorders and headaches. Read on to find out more about the secondary issues caused by bruxism, and how to fix them.
Worn down teeth
As you might imagine, regularly grinding the teeth can cause them to gradually wear down. The loss of vertical length in your teeth can lead to an unappealing appearance and difficulties in chewing. This can be fixed via a cosmetic dental procedure known as bite reclamation.
Your dentist will ascertain how much length has been lost and use fillings to get your teeth back to their full size. This can dramatically alter the appearance of the face, may help rectify pain caused by an uneven bite, and can even remove wrinkles.
Jaw and facial pain
Grinding the teeth puts a lot of pressure on your jaw, leading to problems with the temporomandibular joint. You might experience difficulty opening your mouth fully or struggle to bite and chew food. The jaw may pop, crack or lock into place, which is painful and inconvenient.
TMJ can sometimes be eased using special exercises, like slowly opening the mouth as wide as possible and applying pressure below the chin to increase muscle strength. You should visit your dentist for a full consultation before attempting any exercises, as your TMJ problem may be better treated by trying to address the issues behind your grinding problem instead.
The pressure that's put on your jaw and face by grinding can also trigger headaches. In the short term, these can be treated using over-the-counter painkillers, but this won't address the underlying problem.
If your bruxism is so severe that you're experiencing daily headaches, then wearing a mouth guard or splint at night is a good option to consider. This will hold your jaw in place and prevent you from grinding by putting a barrier between your teeth.
For bruxism that's related to stress, cognitive behaviour therapy can be helpful, particularly when combined with relaxation techniques before bed. Yoga, meditation and massage have all been shown to reduce stress — try a few different techniques to see what works for you.Share
21 November 2016
As a retired dentist, I work with charities which visit developing countries and educate children about dental care. It gives me great satisfaction to revisit these communities and see how proud the children are of their efforts. I am acutely aware that good dental hygiene can help prevent a range of serious conditions when these children become older. I started this blog because it greatly distresses me that many people in Australia do not seem to care for their teeth as much as children in these poor communities. This is happening despite ready access to items like toothbrushes and toothpaste which are luxuries in the places I visit. It is my hope that this blog encourages you not to take dental health for granted. My greatest wish is that you can be as inspired as the children I see in my charity work. Please read on and enjoy.