Teeth grinding, or Bruxism, refers to grinding (rubbing together) or clenching one’s teeth, and has no major implications when done once in a while. However, when it becomes a habit, it can damage the teeth, and cause oral health issues. Although teeth grinding may occur during the day, it is more common for it to occur during sleep. Many people don’t even realize that they are in the habit of grinding teeth unless a family member informs them. If you live alone, a constant and dull headache, accompanied by a sore jaw should warn you of this problem. The best way to find out for sure is to visit a dentist who can examine your jaws for signs of Bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and teeth abnormalities.
An increased teeth grinding trend has been noticed by dentists during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased stress and anxiety.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
- Stress: Rubbing together the opposing rows of lower and upper molar teeth (i.e. teeth grinding), may occur as a result of psychological factors like stress and anxiety.
- Medication: People who are undergoing treatment for depression, and taking antidepressants or those taking antipsychotics may also show signs of teeth grinding.
- Sleep Disorders: People suffering from OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) or other sleep disorders like snoring, mumbling, etc. are likely to grind their teeth while asleep. Also, violent behavior during sleep like punching or kicking, sleep paralysis, or hallucinations may cause people to grind and clench their teeth.
- Habits and Lifestyle Factors: Excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, smoking, and taking recreational drugs like cocaine, etc. may also lead to Bruxism.
- Teeth Related: Having crooked or missing teeth or having an abnormal bite may also be a cause of teeth grinding during sleep.
- Teeth eruption in Children: Around 20% of children up to the age of 11 may suffer from Bruxism while developing teeth, both the first and the permanent ones. This usually ceases once the permanent teeth are fully developed.
Impact of Bruxism on Oral Health
Habitual teeth grinding can damage one’s teeth. It may result in loosened or fractured teeth, and sometimes even cause loss of teeth due to extreme wear. It also impacts the jaw making it tender, and may worsen temporomandibular disorders and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD/TMJ). Chronic grinding may also cause hearing loss, and change facial appearance.
Treatment Options for Teeth Grinding
If you know or suspect that you are suffering from teeth grinding, the first step is to visit a dentist. He can examine you for it, and take EMG measurements for proper diagnosis as well as help you decide a course of action. If it is stress related, or lifestyle related, you need to work on those factors to prevent damage to your jaws and teeth. Your dentist, in the meantime, may help you by fitting you with a mouth guard to prevent you from grinding teeth while sleeping. If the problem is due to defects like misaligned jaw or uneven and crooked teeth, your dentist may help in correcting these defects by realigning the jaw or fitting you with braces.
Teeth grinding can be treated. Schedule an appointment with a dentist today!