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Teeth Grinding or clenching

Bruxism is the term given to the unconscious behaviour of clenching and grinding of teeth. It most often occurs at night when you are sleeping, but some people also do this when they are awake. It can occur when you are angry, frustrated or anxious.

Occasional bruxism or clenching and grinding will not cause any long-term damage.  When it becomes a habit it can lead to damaged teeth, headaches and jaw pain. It can go unnoticed unless it is reported by your bed partner or detected by a dentist during a dental examination.

Recent scientific studies have shed light on bruxism and have attributed it to sleep disturbances (and sleep disordered breathing). Treatment of the bruxism may focus on addressing the sleep disturbance.

Some of the signs of Bruxism

  • The sound of grinding teeth, which is heard by your sleep partner
  • Having sensitive teeth when you eat hot and cold foods
  • Experiencing ear pain, which can feel like an earache, though the problem is not in the ear
  • Jaw, neck or face pain or soreness when you wake up in the morning
  • Having  flattened, chipped or worn down teeth
  • Dull headaches  that start from the temples
  • Sore, painful jaws which you notice after  waking up
  • Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth

See your dentist at the dental gallery in Point Cook if you have any of the symptoms listed above or are aware that you grind your teeth. It is important to get a diagnosis if you think you have bruxism. As bruxism puts abnormal pressure on your teeth, muscles and jaw it is important to get an early diagnosis, so treatment can avoid permanent damage to your teeth.

If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth, or has other signs of bruxism, you should mention it at your child’s next dental appointment. At the dental gallery our dentists have the expertise in helping children who grind their teeth.

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Causes of Bruxism

Recent scientific research has linked bruxism to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) or Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), which is a condition similar to sleep apnoea. Both these conditions occur when there are changes to a person’s airway during sleep. This in turn results in instability of the airway and therefore disturbing sleep patterns.

When you sleep, the muscles in the upper airway relax and the tongue falls to the back of the mouth. The mandible or lower jaw moves backwards and so the base of the tongue slides to the back of the throat. The clenching of the teeth is thought to occur in order to prevent the airway from closing up, keeping the lower jaw in position and thereby limiting the obstruction of the airway.

Impact of Treating Sleep Apnoea on Bruxism

Treating sleep apnoea with a dental sleep appliance may help reduce the symptoms of bruxism.  A sleep study under the supervision of a sleep physician can help to identify the type of sleep disorder. The degree of sleep apnoea can dictate the type of treatment which is most suitable for you.

If you do not have sleep apnoea, then a well-designed bruxism splint made by us can be used to address the bruxism.

Other contributors to Bruxism

Bruxism can also be caused by many physical and psychological factors. These factors include:

  • being under extreme stress or being anxious
  • having a personality that is aggressive, competitive or hyperactive can increase your risk of bruxism.
  • having suppressed feelings of anger and frustration
  • taking certain medication like some anti-depressants
  • having problems with your bite, where the upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly
  • consuming tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated beverages
  • consuming  illegal drugs
  • familial tendency

Bruxism can be associated with some medical disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, epilepsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnoea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Treatment of bruxism provided by the dentist

Our dentists in Point Cook will undertake a thorough examination of the mouth, teeth, jaw and muscles to check for fractured or chipped teeth or damage to dental work – like crowns and other restorative dental work. They will check to see if your jaw muscles are tender and assess your bite and how you teeth are meeting.

They may recommend you have a mouth guard or a splint that fits over your upper or lower teeth. There are many splints available and they will recommend one that is most suitable for you. The use of the splint will prevent your teeth from meeting and reduce damage to your teeth and jaw joint.

You may need restoration of damaged teeth with the use of inlays or onlays or crowns.

Other ways of addressing bruxism

  • Reduction in the intake of caffeinated beverages (like tea and coffee) and alcohol
  • Professional counselling, exercise and relaxation techniques  to reduce stress and   anxiety , especially if this is the main cause of your bruxism
  • Changes in medication if the cause is  thought to be due to medication

Complications of Bruxism

In most cases, bruxism doesn’t cause serious complications. But severe, prolonged bruxism may lead to:

  • Damage to your teeth, dental restorations, crowns or jaw
  • Recurrent episodes of tension-type headaches
  •  Severe facial or jaw pain
  • Disorder and damage to temporomandibular joints (TMJs), which is located just in front of your ears. This can produce a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth.