Teeth Grinding, dentally known as Bruxism, refers to the action of ‘parafunctional’ (i.e. outside of the normal function, for example, eating and chewing) grinding or clenching your teeth. It can be brought on when you are stressed or anxious but is often an unconscious action that patients commit while sleeping.
What are the Causes of Teeth Grinding?
Teeth grinding or Bruxism does not always have a single or identifiable cause, but a number of factors are associated with it.
Primary bruxism occurs on its own and does not result from another condition. Factors causing this kind of bruxism can be –
- Growing Teeth: Bruxism is common in young children. However, because the teeth and jaw grow quickly during childhood, this bruxism usually resolves on its own without causing lasting damage.
- Maligned Teeth: In some people, bruxism may happen because, either a person’s bite is not aligned, or they have missing teeth.
- Stress: One of the main causes of bruxism in adults, whether it occurs during sleep or when awake, is stress.
- Smoking, Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption: The use and abuse of these substances are also widely associated with bruxism.
Secondary bruxism occurs as a result of another medical condition or circumstance, such as –
- Mental Health Conditions: Anxiety and Depression are associated with bruxism. This association may be due in part to stress, which can contribute to these conditions.
- Neurological Conditions: Conditions such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease can cause movement during sleep, which may result in bruxism.
- Medications: Bruxism can be a side effect of certain medications, including some antidepressants and antipsychotics.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing to stop temporarily during sleep. It can reduce sleep quality and cause frequent arousals, which may be why it is a risk factor for bruxism. By disturbing sleep, sleep apnea may promote teeth grinding or clenching.
What is the Long-term Impact of Teeth Grinding?
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, affects sufferers in a variety of ways. People with bruxism are typically subjected to short-term side effects, but often encounter more serious long-term issues, which can become permanent. If the short-term effects are not treated right away, they will lead to more painful symptoms. It is best that you seek dental help as soon as symptoms occur, not only to help you treat bruxism but also to help avoid tooth loss and destruction. Some potential long-term impacts of Bruxism include –
Teeth grinding and clenching place constant stress and pressure on the jaw joints and the surrounding muscles. You might experience jaw pain and stiffness, facial pain and even earaches from frequent grinding.
2. Jaw Disorders:
Grinding can affect the structure of the joints and muscles that make up the jaw and cause Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD). TMD can cause severe facial, neck and shoulder pain, and lead to difficulty chewing, talking and swallowing.
3. Tooth Damage:
Tooth damage is a leading side effect of clenching and grinding. Frequent grinding can wear down tooth surfaces and tooth enamel, leading to height loss and increased tooth sensitivity. Additionally, constant stress and pressure can crack, chip, fracture or loosen teeth. Grinding can also damage fillings, crowns or bridges you may already have.
4. Gum Recession:
Bruxism is a leading cause of gum recession. Grinding causes teeth to shift and loosen, creating pockets where bacteria enter and cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
Grinding can cause painful migraines and tension headaches from the constant stress and pressure placed on the face and jaw muscles.
How Can Bruxism be Effectively Treated?
Bruxism is a condition that needs to be treated carefully. Since it can be caused by a multitude of factors, bruxism needs to be diagnosed before treatment is suggested, to make sure the root causes are addressed. Treatment for bruxism is dependent on several criteria since every patient’s circumstances will be unique. Criteria include the condition of the teeth, the patient’s face type, bite type and any dental work that has previously been carried out.
Bruxism usually affects multiple teeth or even all the teeth, so a more comprehensive treatment approach is often required, involving preventative measures. Treatment can be relatively simple, conservative, or more complex depending on the overall condition of the patient’s teeth and mouth. In some cases, full mouth treatment may be required.
There are a few different options for the treatment of worn teeth, depending on the severity of the condition of the teeth. In mild cases, a simple “night guard” and changes in your diet may be sufficient to prevent and control the damage to your teeth. However, in moderate and more advanced cases, restorative treatment may be required to rebuild the teeth. This usually involves composite bonding as a first stage but can also involve ceramic veneers, inlays, crowns or partial crowns on your teeth. Sometimes orthodontic treatment is also required to improve the tooth alignment and bite.