Teeth Grinding - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Bruxism?

Have you sometimes found yourself unconsciously grinding your teeth? Do you feel your jaw clench when you are anxious or upset? Some amount of teeth grinding is normal, and we all do it from time to time, consciously or unconsciously, and even in our sleep. But in some cases, this grinding becomes serious enough to cause problems. This is known as bruxism.

We all have some degree of Bruxism for different reasons and at different times and is common among both children and adults alike. Mild bruxism does not cause harm, but when it occurs on a regular basis, you can damage your teeth, leading to oral complications. One of the first signs of excessive bruxism include facial pain, headaches and sensitive teeth; and, over time, your teeth can wear out.

It’s an almost involuntary action, and you may not even be aware that you are doing it. Even if you are aware, with time, if you do not make efforts to stop, it can become a physical habit, which is very difficult to break. Worn out teeth need extra care and a regime that includes brushing and rinsing with a mouthwash regularly.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

The primary causes of bruxism are stress and anxiety. In general, bruxism is caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors.

There are two kinds of bruxism – awake and sleep.

Awake bruxism is when you semi-consciously grind your teeth during the day. Most people grind their teeth due to anxiety or stress, or when they are trying to concentrate on something. And they are doing it.

Sleep bruxism happens at night, when you clench your teeth due to disturbed sleeping patterns, or if you suffer from sleep apnoea. Hallucinations or night terrors can also cause bruxism.

If you are an aggressive, competitive or hyperactive person, you may be at a higher risk of bruxism. Certain medications can also cause bruxism, although this is rare. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol may increase the risk of bruxism.

Sleep bruxism is genetic, so if one of your family members has bruxism, you may be at greater risk.

Bruxism Symptoms:

As mentioned, you may grind your teeth without even realizing you are doing it, but some obvious indicators are:

  • Facial and tooth pain
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Pain and stiffness in the jaw and surrounding muscles
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Worn-down teeth indicated by increased sensitivity
  • Broken teeth or fillings

Prevention of Bruxism:

Although it happens unconsciously at times, there are things you can do to prevent bruxism. In order to take corrective action, you first need to determine the real cause of bruxism.

If your bruxism is caused by stress, you can actively try to calm your mind before going to bed. Try to massage your jaw before bedtime and relax your muscles. You can also try cutting back on stimulant foods and drinks such as colas, chocolate and coffee. Exercise also helps in loosening the muscles, helping you sleep better. But addressing the root cause of the stress is also important, as it will lead you to a long-term solution.

If you have a habit of chewing gum or biting into things when concentrating, make a conscious effort to stop. Chewing excessively allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.

Dehydration can also lead to bruxism, so make sure you are well-hydrated.

A good oral care routine will keep the teeth stronger and more protected, while you tackle the root cause of bruxism, so make sure you brush your teeth well and use a mouthwash daily.

Treatment for Bruxism:

Bruxism can generally be controlled with preventive measures. Most children who grind their teeth in their sleep outgrow the habit, but if the problem gets more severe, then they would need to see a professional.

A mouth guard helps to stop bruxism: it is designed to keep the teeth separate, and avoid damage caused by clenching and grinding. Mouth guards are custom-made to fit your teeth.

If bruxism is caused by gaps in your teeth or any other dental issue, reshaping or treating damaged teeth can help you stop the grinding. Taking care of your teeth and maintaining overall good oral health and can help you avoid serious dental issues.