By Dr Oh Xue Ling BDS(adel)
Approximately half the population grinds their teeth, and this does not merely apply to adults. In fact, 1 in 3 children does this unhealthy action of grinding. The clinical term for clenching and grinding of teeth is called bruxism, and it can happen both in the day and at night.
Causes of bruxism
The causes of bruxism are still being researched on, but there are many factors that are strongly linked to and shown to contribute to this. Listed below are some of these factors:
- Over-activity in the day
- Psychiatric illness
- Physical conditions such as illness
- Abnormal bite such as a “high spot” on a new filling
How do you know if you grind your teeth?
As the majority of the population grinds their teeth at night, most are unaware of this habit. The signs and symptoms of bruxism varies depending on the severity of the activity.
Some of the signs and symptoms of bruxism include:
- Waking up with dull pain in the teeth, headache, sore facial muscles and jaw joints, or earache
- Grinding sound reported by bed partners
- Worn tooth surfaces, “shorter” teeth
- Hairline fractures of teeth enamel, fractured teeth
- Tension-related headaches (especially for those who has a habit of clenching)
In severe cases, teeth can become badly worn, resulting in them being sensitive and painful. Some may even require root canal if they become so worn that the nerve is exposed, or might need to be extracted.
What are the treatment options?
- Stress management
Stress counselling, regular exercise and massage can help reduce the physical and psychological stress
- Conscious effort to stop clenching
During the day, try to be more aware of any clenching habit, and stop yourself whenever you find yourself clenching or grinding.
Get rid of any bad habits such as chewing on fingernail or pen during the day.
- Reduce triggers
Avoid stimulants such as alcohol and foods that contain caffeine e.g. coffee, cola
Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications can reduce some pain and inflammation in the muscles and jaw joints.
- Construction of nightguard
A nightguard is a plastic material that is custom made to fit either the upper or lower teeth. It is worn overnight while asleep, to protect the teeth from further wear.
If you suspect that you might be grinding your teeth, make an appointment with us for a check up and to run through some treatment options for you.