The hidden danger in your mouth: Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
Do you ever wake up in the morning with an aching jaw or a headache?
If this happens to you on a regular basis, there’s a good chance you are grinding your teeth in your deep sleep – and you don’t even realise you are doing it.
A significant part of our population in modern world grinds their teeth from time to time including kids, teenagers and adults.
Some of us could be regular, forceful tooth grinders. Ouch!
This is the sort of chronic teeth grinding that can become problematic. It can also be very noisy so you may find yourself unpopular with your sleeping partner or room-mate!
What IS Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding is otherwise known as bruxism (yep it’s a word that you don’t hear used too often – unless you work in a dental practice!)
Bruxism is defined as the involuntary clenching, gnashing and grinding of your teeth.
If your teeth are in contact too often or too forcefully, you can, over time wear down your tooth enamel – the outer layer that protects your tooth. Dental research says our teeth should only be in contact for two minutes in any 24 hour period.
If the second layer, the dentin, becomes exposed this can lead to tooth sensitivity. Without the enamel to protect your teeth, you can end up with some serious (and potentially costly) dental problems.
Symptoms of teeth grinding
You can be a ‘bruxer’ and not know it! There are several tell-tale signs to look for:
- Headaches or pain in the jaw joint
- Aching teeth – particularly in the morning or after waking up
- Teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold temperatures
- Stiffness in the face (or temples) immediately after waking up
- Teeth marks (indentations) on the tongue
- Chipped or cracked tooth enamel
- Loose teeth
- Grinding sounds whilst sleeping
- Noticeably clenching the jaw when stressed or anxious
- Painful jaw-joints or radiating neck pain.
Causes of teeth grinding
- Anxiety and depression
- Sleep disordered breathing in kids and adults
- Misaligned teeth or bite
- Alcohol, smoking, high caffeine intake
- Some medications including antidepressants and amphtetamines.
While stress and anxiety have been identified as one of the most common causes, there is new evidence to suggest another culprit. Sleep disordered breathing.
In this case, the grinding has less to do with stress. As your body cycles through the various stages of sleep, many of your muscles relax. For some people, relaxing the jaw and tongue obstructs their airway.
The physical act of clenching the jaw and grinding teeth actually serves to reopen the airway. In that sense, tooth grinding is a sort of automatic measure of self-preservation. It allows you to continue breathing.
Sleep disordered breathing can be a serious problem. So if it turns out that your tooth grinding is related to sleep apnoea, it is of utmost importance that you contact your local specialist trained in sleep medicine.
Must Read This, Sometimes Local Dentist Job Care are enough.
At Timeless Smiles Dentalwe can help patients who suffer from persistent teeth grinding. It is part of our routine comprehensive dental exam that we assess your teeth for wear and any damage, as well as check muscles in and around your jaw.
While there are no quick-fix treatment options to stop bruxism, Dr Nimesh of our Pennant Hills Dental practice would offer the following options to control your teeth grinding and prevent it from causing further damage to your teeth and jaws:
- occlusal splint or night-guard,
- elaxation of jaw-muscles with heat/cold application,
- muscle relaxant injection (botox) in jaw muscles, or
- referral to ENT specialist or Respiratory physician for sleep study and related treatment.