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Grinding teeth and clenching jaw – Bruxism

Grinding teeth or bruxism ¹ is a condition where you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, often while you’re asleep. You may not know you’re grinding your teeth unless someone hears it and points it out to you.

Your dentist may also notice damage that is typical of teeth grinding such as chipped, cracked or loose teeth.

Teeth grinding symptoms

The main symptoms of grinding teeth are:

  • Headache in the temples
  • Pain in the face or jaw
  • Tight or tired jaw muscles
  • Earache
  • Damage to your teeth
  • Sensitive teeth

Causes of grinding teeth

There are a number of possible reasons why you’re grinding your teeth, both physical and psychological:

Physical causes of teeth grinding

  • Poor alignment of your upper and lower teeth (malocclusion)
  • Reflux of your stomach contents into your oesophagus
  • A sleep disorder such as sleep apnea
  • A side effect of certain medications for psychiatric disorders
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs such as ecstasy or speed
  • A movement disorder such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

Psychological causes of teeth grinding

  • Anxiety, stress, anger and frustration
  • Having an aggressive or hyperactive personality

Should I get treatment for my teeth grinding?

If a child is grinding their teeth they may outgrow the problem.

In adults, if teeth grinding is left untreated, it can become a very destructive and expensive problem. Teeth grinding can lead to loss of teeth and the need for expensive dental work. It can also cause permanent damage to your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint connects your jaw to your skull.2

Teeth grinding treatments

There are a number of treatments for teeth grinding which your GP or dentist can recommend:

  • A dental splint such as SomnoBrux to prevent progression of the damage to your teeth
  • Psychological therapies including stress management, cognitive behaviour therapy and biofeedback
  • A change of medication, if that’s what’s causing the problem
  • Medications such as muscle relaxants or injections of a toxin which paralyses the jaw muscles
  • Braces or oral surgery, if the cause is poor alignment of your teeth
References
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