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Understanding Teeth Grinding: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bruxism or teeth grinding, known medically as bruxism, is the involuntary clenching, grinding, and gnashing of teeth, typically occurring during sleep but sometimes during wakefulness. This common condition affects approximately 50% of the population sporadically, with around 5% experiencing regular and forceful tooth grinding. Often, individuals are unaware of this habit, but it may be noticed by a partner or heard by parents in their sleeping children. The triggers for teeth grinding can range from stress and anxiety to concentration or even anger.

Symptoms and Signs:

Teeth grinding can manifest through various symptoms and signs, including:

    • Headaches, jaw joint pain, or ear discomfort.
    • Aching teeth, especially upon waking.
    • Facial stiffness upon waking, especially around the temples.
    • Jaw stiffness during breakfast.
    • Jaw clenching during emotional or anxious states.
    • Temperature-sensitive teeth.
    • Cracked or chipped tooth enamel.
    • Indentations on the tongue from biting.
    • Loose teeth.

Problems stemming from teeth grinding may lead to:

    • Cracked tooth enamel.
    • Excessive wear and tear on teeth.
    • Broken teeth or dental restorations, like fillings.
    • Strain on the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint).
    • Pain in the jaw joint or limited jaw movement.
    • Sore jaw muscles.
    • Tooth loss (rare).
    • Enlargement of the jaw muscles (rare).
    • Increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

Risk Factors:

Several factors can increase the risk of teeth grinding, including:

    • Stress and anxiety.
    • Alcohol consumption.
    • Smoking.
    • Caffeine intake.
    • Snoring.
    • Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
    • Certain medications, like antidepressants, anti-psychotics, amphetamines, or cocaine.

A dentist or oral health professional can help assess the influence of these factors.

Teeth Grinding in Children:

Many parents have heard their children grinding their teeth, usually while they sleep. While this habit is relatively common in children, their rapidly developing teeth and jaws typically outgrow the habit as they get older. Risk factors for teeth grinding in children include teething pain, emotional stress, certain medications, or medical conditions like cerebral palsy or ADHD.

Treatment Options:

If you suspect you grind your teeth, it’s crucial to consult with your dentist or oral health professional. They may recommend various treatment options, including:

    1. Repairing tooth damage.

    2. Cosmetic injections in the areas of jaw muscles.

    3. Evaluating other forms of tooth wear, such as erosion.

    4. Assessing risk factors, including sleep-disordered breathing.

    5. Providing a specialized mouthguard (known as a ‘bite splint’) to wear at night can help alleviate symptoms but may not eliminate grinding entirely.

Management of bruxism can also involve:

    • Stress management therapy.
    • Relaxation techniques.
    • Cognitive behaviour therapy.
    • Hypnotherapy.
    • Practicing good sleep hygiene.
    • Regular exercise.

If concerns persist or intensify, it’s advisable to consult with a general practitioner for further evaluation and guidance. To make an appointment, visit Mentone General Practice.

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