Teeth grinding is one of those rarely discussed but often annoying habits that many of us suffer from, usually in silence. It may be you, sometimes it’s your partner or occasionally it’s your children. Whoever is causing the disturbance though, the disruption in sleep patterns and potential harm to teeth is certainly cause for a discussion with your Dental practitioner. So if you’re a grinder, married to one or the parent of one, read on for more on this annoying and potentially harmful practice.
Formally known as Bruxism, grinding typically occurs in your sleep with the only sign arising from a potentially sore jaw or ongoing, regular headaches upon awakening. Of course, if you have a partner, grinding can be particularly loud and while you remain blissfully unaware, they know only too well that you are a “grinder!” Just like that commercial about covering gray hair where “only your stylist knows for sure,” Bruxism can only properly be identified by your Dentist during a regular check up as your teeth will show signs of excessive wear and tear. Grinders may also have an abnormal bite and missing or crooked teeth. While these are common causes of grinding, so too is stress and/or anxiety. Grinding can cause permanent damage to teeth, breakage, loosening or loss of teeth altogether and in extreme examples, can even lead to TMJ which we will discuss in a later blog. The bottom line? If grinding is an issue for you or a family member, a visit to the Dentist should be your first step toward healing.
A Dentist will perform a full and careful examination of your mouth and jaw to first determine if there are any structural issues that may be contributing to the problem. They will complete any required dental work. More importantly, a Dentist can make a custom fit mouth guard for you to wear at night that will prevent you from grinding in the first place. In turn, this will reduce issues like the sore and tender jaw and chronic headaches. That’s not all you should do however. Just as in the past we have stressed that a Dentist should be an integral part of your overall health care management, so it is too when addressing the issue of Bruxism. Underlying causes like stress or anxiety must also be addressed at the same time as you seek dental treatment. You may wish to seek counseling, start an exercise program and avoid things like caffeine and alcohol before bed as these can intensify grinding behaviour. You can even try spending some time before bed practicing relaxing your jaw muscles by placing your tongue between your teeth or holding a warm washcloth against your cheek. (1)
It’s important to keep in mind that while rare, teeth grinding can also be a sign of other illness such as allergies or endocrine disorders so it is not something that should be ignored or dismissed. If you’re a grinder, married to one or suspect that the noise emanating from the children’s room at night might be teeth grinding, make an appointment today with your Family Dentist, the team here at Brinkley Dental and also with your family Doctor too. Working together, your health care team can eliminate or at least minimize the effects of grinding, on your teeth, your sleeping habits and on your mental well-being! As for your dental well-being….. as always, ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”