Worried about grinding your teeth at night? Here's everything you need to know.
1. What’s it called?
Bruxism is the medical term for the condition, characterised by grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. On average it affects between 8-10% of the UK population and often symptoms manifest themselves in the form of an aching jaw, facial pain or increased teeth sensitivity.
2. How common is the condition?
Bruxism affects both children and adults but is most common in 25-44 year olds. The fact that we are seeing 30% more cases than we were five years ago is worrying; it could be down to work-related stress as many current day jobs are increasingly pressurised and target driven.
3. Why do I grind my teeth at night?
There are two reasons why people grind their teeth at night: the first reason is stress, particularly for women. When we sleep, any worries or concerns we have, even if only in our subconscious mind, can lead to clenching, nocturnal grinding and, in some cases, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD, pain and dysfunction of the jaw muscles). The second reason is genetics. Grinding your teeth can be something we inherit from our family.
4. Are there any other factors that make teeth grinding more likely?
Bruxism is also more prevalent in individuals who regularly use alcohol, tobacco and caffeine (6 cups or more per day) so cutting back on your vices can be one way of reducing symptoms.
5. How do you know if you grind your teeth at night?
Although there are some physical symptoms associated with teeth grinding (as outlined above), most people are not aware that they grind their teeth until their dentist notices tooth wear, or their partner complains of the noise. This highlights the importance of having regular dental checks, so problems such as this can be treated before damage is done to teeth.
6. Is Bruxism connected to any other conditions?
Significant connections have been found between night Bruxism and other sleep conditions such as sleep talking, hypnagogic (state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness) hallucinations and violent or injurious behaviours during sleep.
7. How can teeth grinding change my appearance?
When done excessively, teeth grinding can lead to an increased use of the masseter muscles at the back angle of the lower jaw. Continued clenching can cause these muscles to bulk-up, which can give the face a wider appearance. Grinding can also lead to enamel surface loss, making the teeth shorter and in some cases sensitivity. Shorter teeth can cause the look of an over-closed mouth, which we associate with old age.
8. Can teeth grinding affect my general as well as oral health?
Teeth grinding can cause headaches and earaches and often means sleep is not as restful as it should be - this will take a toll on someone's general health and well-being.
9. What can I do at about it at home?
If the problem is stress related, relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can help to soothe before going to bed. It might also be worth seeing your GP if you suffer from anxiety to help manage symptoms.
10. How can my dentist help?
A mouth guard can and should be worn to prevent the teeth from wearing down. Mouth guards must be custom-made and fitted by a dental professional to ensure it correctly fits the shape and size of your mouth and teeth. They will not necessarily eradicate the grinding problem completely. They can, however, preserve the longevity of the teeth and prevent sensitivity, and the need for fillings, early on.
11. What shouldn’t I do?
Often people’s fear of the dentist inhibits them from seeing a specialist about teeth grinding. We often don’t discover the patient has been grinding their teeth until they have an appointment for something else. It is very important that people visit a dentist regularly, and if they have bad memories from years gone by, that it doesn’t deter them from visiting. At elleven we have tried to make our practice as welcoming as possible and dentistry has changed a lot over the last ten years. With the latest technology, pain relief and patient-focussed ethos, they can actually be a pleasure to visit!
Tips from Orthodontic Specialist Dr. Shivani Patel from award-winning dental and orthodontic practice elleven.