Believe it or not, tooth grinding is a very common issue in both adults and children! Tooth grinding can happen during the day or while you are sleeping at night.
Night grinding usually stems from either stress or anxiety that affects people subconsciously while they are asleep. Sometimes the amount of force placed on the teeth is so great that others in the household complain about hearing it!
People can also unconsciously bring their teeth together during stressful situations (such as when driving) or during times of physical exertion (for example when exercising at the gym).
While stress is one of the most common factors in tooth grinding and/or clenching, it is far from being the only cause.
In adults, tooth grinding can be a symptom of:
Tooth and/or jaw misalignment;
Sleep apnea (breathing disturbance that can cause jaws to subconsciously come together in an attempt to open up the airway);
Physical issues such as poor nutrition, headaches;
Bite imbalances (crooked teeth, lost tooth or a dental filling that is ‘too high’);
Drug use (particularly amphetamines).
In children, tooth grinding can be a symptom of, or linked to:
So what’s the damage?
If left unattended or undiagnosed, tooth grinding can eventually cause:
Severe tooth damage (cracked teeth, broken teeth, loss of fillings);
Damage to crown and bridge porcelain;
Worn dentition (loss of tooth structure and shortening of the teeth);
Recession and/or gum damage;
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorder;
Headaches and jaw aches;
Poor sleep and irritability.
How do I figure out if I am clenching or grinding my teeth?
If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms:
Cracked, chipped or worn teeth;
If you regularly break teeth or fillings;
If your teeth appear shorter;
If you have sensitive teeth;
You have tender, sore or enlarged jaw muscles;
You don’t sleep well, you are constantly tired, or often have headaches and/or neck strain;
If someone tells you they can hear you grinding in your sleep;
There is a high likelihood that you are clenching or grinding your teeth!
How can I fix it?
If you suspect that you grind your teeth, or you’ve had someone mention it to you, please visit a dentist as soon as you can. Here at Gateway Dental Health, Dr. Chee will take a look at your teeth and talk about the possible treatment options available to you. These may include:
Repair of damaged teeth i.e. tooth has cracked;
Fix fillings that are too high or uncomfortable;
Bite splints/night guard. This is a special mouth guard to wear at night so that the hard plastic is worn down and damaged instead of your teeth. It is important to note that a bite splint will only help protect your teeth and ease the symptoms of clenching and grinding, but will not stop you from grinding.
Referral to a sleep apnea clinic to assess if you have any airway or breathing disorders that are a contributing cause of your grinding.
In the case of toddlers and small children under the age of 6, tooth clenching/grinding can be difficult to treat. Children are often not aware of their tooth grinding, and are reliant on parents to hear the grinding or to notice the damage to the teeth and report to a dentist.
Small children unfortunately often cannot tolerate a night guard, and wearing one can pose a choking hazard at night. Thankfully, over time most children grow out of grinding habits, and their teeth can be managed through regular monitoring of factors such as stress and diet.
Regular dental check-ups can help determine if a child needs repairs to damaged teeth, and in the case of older children, can help predetermine the need for orthodontics or further treatment.
Apart from going to visit your dentist, there are some other steps you can take to help stop grinding your teeth, such as:
Stress management therapy;
Cognitive behavior therapy;
Medication that relaxes the jaw muscles;
Massage of the jaw joints and use of heat packs;
After reading this blog, if you suspect you are grinding or clenching your teeth, please call us on 07 3493 0028 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care and happy chomping!
Dr Richard Chee and the team @ Gateway Dental Health