You are grinding your teeth, and you don’t even know it!
Many of us grind our teeth or clench our jaws when faced with stressful situations. Although the occasional teeth grinding doesn’t do much damage, grinding your teeth regularly can cause damage.
How do I know if it’s me?
Most of your teeth grinding (also known as bruxism) may take place while you are asleep. Symptoms that could point to grinding, include:
- waking up with a dull headache
- pain in the jaw or ear
- tightening of the jaw muscles.
However, since these symptoms may mimic other health problems, most patients do not realise that this is an oral problem that requires attention from a dentist and not necessarily from a GP.
What does the dentist look for?
Typically, a dentist is the first person to detect the effects of bruxism in the mouth. Your dentist may find the following signs:
- a flattened tooth surface
- sensitive teeth
- chipped away enamel
- fractured teeth or fillings
What causes bruxism?
The causes of bruxism are still unclear, although contributing factors may include:
Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety not only cause you to clench your jaws and grind your teeth, but these mental and psychological problems can also have significant adverse influences on your sleep pattern, triggering episodes of sleep bruxism.
People who suffer from sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea are more than likely to grind their teeth while asleep. Moreover, other sleep conditions such as mumbling while sleeping, violent behaviour and sleep paralysis can also play a significant role in the wearing down of your teeth enamel.
Bruxism can be a side effect of consuming certain antidepressants used to treat depression and anxiety. Bruxism can also be linked to a particular type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Certain lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing bruxism. These choices may include consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking, recreational drug use, and drinking more than five cups of tea or coffee a day.
What can I do about it?
In most cases, treatment is necessary, and when the problem becomes more severe, certain dental therapies – bite plates in particular – may be prescribed. It may also be recommended that you take some self-help steps to help you reduce stress.
Speak your dentist at Corné Smith Dentistry, Claremont Cape Town, about the best treatment options available for you.