Many people occasionally grind or clench their teeth during the sleep. This conditions is known as bruxism and it can be mild, moderate or severe. People who chronically grind or clench their teeth should see their dentist on regular basis to find out if bruxism is causing damage to their teeth.
Causes of teeth grinding
Experts do not always agree on what exactly is the cause of teeth grinding. The cause may also vary from person to person, and possible causes include stress, anxiety and nervous tension, but it can also be a non-psychological factor, like a missing tooth, crooked teeth or abnormal bite.
Bruxism seems to be more pronounced in people who drink a lot of caffeine beverages, like coffee, tea and sodas, and alcohol too. It is also observed in people who frequently chew gum.
Many people, especially those who sleep alone, are not even aware of their habit to grind or clench their teeth during sleep. They wake up in the morning with sore jaw, tender teeth and mild headache, without knowing the cause of it. Clenching the jaw may be easier to detect because often a person wakes up feeling that his or her jaw and teeth are clenched. Many times a person who suffers from bruxism finds it out from their loved ones who hear the grinding at night.
Effects of teeth grinding
Teeth grinding can cause serious damage to the teeth, especially if it goes on for a longer period of time. In severe cases the teeth may be reduced to stubs and the person may need bridges, crowns, root canal, partial or complete dentures.
Severe teeth grinding affects not only teeth, but it can also lead to partial hearing loss, jaw problems, TMD/TMJ, and it may even change the appearance of the face.
Treatment for teeth grinding
A person who suffers from bruxism should see their dentist in order to determine the damage the teeth have suffered from grinding. Even if the grinding is mild and there is no damage, it is best to try to stop it. Meanwhile the dentist will recommend wearing a mouth guard which protects the teeth during night.
Many dentists recommend seeking professional help in order to find out what psychological reasons are behind teeth grinding. This may include counseling or psychotherapy. People who suffer from stress should learn the ways to avoid it and reduce it with relaxation techniques and physical exercise.
Determining the source of anxiety and nervous tension is very important. Once that problem is dealt with, all the physical manifestations, like grinding, will go away.
Some doctors recommend muscle relaxant medication, physical therapy and exercise programs.
It also helps to place a warm washcloth on the cheek to relax the jaw and to put the tongue between the teeth.