Are you clenching or grinding your teeth?

Clenching or grinding your teeth is also referred to as bruxism and in most cases people aren’t even aware they are doing it. It can occur while awake but it is more of an issue when you are asleep as you have no control of it. Stress is said to be the major contributing cause, according to dental research. There are a number of factors that influence whether bruxism will cause pain and other problems and will also vary from person to person.

They include:

  • Stress level
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Personality traits
  • How long and tightly you clench and grind
  • Malocclusion (whether your teeth are misaligned)
  • Posture
  • Ability to relax
  • Diet
  • Sleeping habits

Clenching the teeth puts pressure on the muscles, tissues, and other structures around your jaw. The symptoms can cause temporo-mandibular joint problems.

Grinding can wear down your teeth and can be noisy enough at night to bother sleeping partners.
Symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Anxiety, stress, and tension
  • Depression
  • Ear congestion
  • Eating disorders
  • Headache
  • Muscle tenderness, especially in the morning
  • Hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity in the teeth
  • cracked teeth/ fillings
  • Insomnia
  • Sore or painful jaw

How can bruxism be treated?

The primary goal of treatment is to reduce, prevent any permanent damage to teeth and reduce clenching as much as possible.

  • Firstly being aware that you are grinding or clenching is the first step to controlling the habit especially for daytime. By simply having a sticker at your desk that reminds you to release your jaw may help as well as jaw and muscle exercises that Dr Aashul Patel and Dr Sophia Andrews can show you.
  • Nightguards or splints are also used in more moderate to severe cases of clenching, grinding and TMJ disorders. These splints may help protect the teeth from the pressure of clenching and grinding.

Temporo-mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD)

TMD or TMJD is the umbrella term covering pain and dysfunction associated with muscles that move the jaw and the joints which connect the jaw to the skull. These are also referred to muscles of mastication. Symptoms of TMD include

  • pain
  • restricted jaw movements
  • noises (clicking or grating) from the joints during jaw movement.

Although TMD is not life threatening it can impact on an individual’s quality of life because the symptoms can become chronic and in some cases quite difficult to manage. TMD is thought to be very common with about 20-30% of the adult population affected in some degree.

Research shows majority of people affected are aged between 20 and 40 years, with it also being more common in females than males. Most of the time treatment begins with making a splint to align the bite and muscles that are not balanced.

After a few months of wearing the splint several options are available to finalise treatment. Patients can continue to wear the splint, correct the bite with orthodontics, or crown and bridge treatment at the new jaw position.

Dr Patel and Dr Andrews are well trained and educated in treating TMD so feel free to make a consultation to talk about any concerns you may have.